Govt lends weight to New Ziana revival plans

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Harare (New Ziana) – Plans to revitalise the state owned multimedia organisation New Ziana are well on course, with the government committing to lend full support to ensure success of the turnaround efforts.

This emerged when the Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services permanent secretary Nick Mangwana and officials from the Zimbabwe Mass Media Trust (ZMMT) appeared before Parliament on Thursday, which sought to hear plans for reviving New Ziana.

Once a leading source of national, regional and international news, viability challenges caused by inadequate funding, slow adaptation to new technologies and staff shortages have relegated New Ziana to the back-burner of the Zimbabwean media industry.

But, Mangwana said the government would not let New Ziana die and would avail the necessary support to the ZMMT in its efforts to turn around the “emblematic” media outlet, which owns the national news agency and publishes eight community newspapers.

“From the government perspective, we are prepared to support the thrust which the Trust (ZMMT) has, and we also believe that in terms of devolution we cannot have a situation where we have community (radio) stations in communities but we do not have newspapers which the communities can identify with, and whose content the community can relate to,” he said.

“We want to appreciate the inquiry into the operations of this emblematic outlet called New Ziana and we do not believe it should die. We believe in the thrust that the Trustees want to take and that they should be supported by the policy makers and our Parliament.”

Initially, the government had earmarked New Ziana for absorption by the parent Ministry, but it changed plans and opted to revive the ZMMT, which it then charged with turning around the media organisation.

ZMMT deputy chairperson Tommy Sithole said the green shoots of recovery were already showing with, for example, the improved work ethic and quality of the community newspapers.

“There was a lack of leadership for quite some time, there was not enough supervision especially in the provinces, but I would like to say honestly, because of the dedication that is now being shown, we have the core to start rebuilding New Ziana. We are re-building New Ziana and as difficult as it maybe, I think there is progress,” said Sithole, who is also chairperson of the Zimpapers board.

ZMMT executive secretary Ray Mungoshi said the ultimate aim of the turnaround strategy was to create a lean but efficient organisation.

Mungoshi said for the community newspapers, each province would be manned by two reporters while leveraging on District Information Officers to secure additional content.

He said in an effort to improve content quality, the ZMMT had since secured the services of veteran former Editors, Funny Mushava, Davison Maruziva and Fanwel Sibanda.

“We are not looking to replicate the old Ziana, which had maybe 100-150 reporters. We are looking to create a lean but very efficient organisation. At least two reporters per province should be able to produce enough content while the editing part will be done here in Harare. We are going to have a hub at the Head Office,” he said.

“The Ministry (of Information) has just recruited, I stand to be corrected, 70 District Information Officers, so we want to latch onto that and use the District Information Officers because we cannot be in every district.

“This is where we are going, this is the thinking. Hopefully in time when everything has come together and the system is working, we will also be able to produce newspapers in vernacular.”

Mungoshi said as part of the revitalisation of New Ziana, the company had introduced a new publication called the Zimbabwe Year Book.

“This is a Strategic Business Unit that we want to grow. Under that SBU we approach companies, entities, NGOs and profile their achievements over the course of the year,” he said.

Chegutu West legislator Webster Shamu, who is a former Information Minister, supported the availing of financial resources to New Ziana, which has gone for over 10 years without receiving any capital injection.

“Why do we appoint a board without tools for it to go and produce a product yet we all know that for anything to be done there is need for money?” he queried.

The Committee heard that New Ziana is saddled with Statutory debts to the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority and the National Social Security Authority.
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