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POZ, ZBC MOU SIGNING SPEAKER'S REMARKS

 

         REMARKS BY THE SPEAKER OF THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY, HON. ADV. J. F. MUDENDA AT THE SIGNING CEREMONY OF THE MoU BETWEEN PARLIAMENT OF ZIMBABWE (PoZ) AND THE ZIMBABWE BROADCASTING CORPORATION (ZBC)

 

MONDAY 11TH DECEMBER, 2017

 

 

 

 

 

  • The President of the Senate, Hon. E. G. Madzongwe;
  • The Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly, Hon. M. M. Chinomona;
  • The Deputy President of the Senate, Hon. C. C. C. Chimutengwende
  • The ZBC Board Chairperson, Father F. Munyoro and your Board Members here present;
  • The Clerk of Parliament, Mr K. M. Chokuda;
  • The CEO of ZBC, Mr Patrick Mavhura and your staff;
  • Senior Managers and staff of Parliament;
  • Members of the media fraternity;
  • Distinguished Invited Guests;
  • Ladies and Gentlemen

 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     On behalf of my fellow Presiding Officers and, indeed, on my own behalf, it is a distinct honour for me to deliver the opening remarks at this auspicious occasion where we gather to witness the signing of a critically important Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Parliament of Zimbabwe and our national broadcaster, the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC). The MoU seeks to formalise the relationship between Parliament of Zimbabwe and ZBC in order to ensure a more co-ordinated approach to activities of mutual interest that will enhance the visibility of Parliament and its Committees in a manner that will promote and make the work of Parliament of Zimbabwe known to the general public.

Hon. Presiding Officers, Ladies and Gentlemen,

This historic occasion brings together two instrumental institutions in the quest for participatory democracy. On the one hand, Parliament, as the supreme representative institution, embodies the will of the people in Government and carries all their hopes and expectations that democracy will be truly responsive to their needs and help solve the most pressing problems that confront them in their daily lives[1]. Pursuant to this, Parliament must play a key democratic role in setting an appropriate legal framework for the media to ensure both their independence and diversity. The media, on the other hand, constitute the key means for informing citizens about public affairs, and a key channel of communication between Parliament and the public. In addition, in their investigative role, the media have always been perceived as a ‘watchdog’ against all kinds of abuse, including even abuse perpetrated by some Parliamentarians individually or collectively, let alone the abuse of office by some Executive members of the Cabinet.  How well both institutions fulfill these functions is vital for the quality of our constitutional democracy.

In view of the foregoing it is crystal clear, therefore, that while the relationship between Parliament and the media is sometimes adversarial, it should to all intents and purposes, be complementary and mutually beneficial. For parliamentary proceedings to be open to the public, entails that it be transparent to the press and the broadcasting personnel who act as the ‘eyes and ears’ of the public generally. I dare say we can only give full effect to participatory democracy when our citizens, both in the urban areas and in the hinterland, are fully informed and actively participate in the business of Parliament in particular and the national governance matrix in general. It is our shared recognition of the important role that both Parliament and the media can and should play in advancing participatory democracy that has culminated in the formalization of our co-operation today through the signing of this seminal MoU.

Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Indeed, we have no other choice for Section 141 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe which obliges Parliament to:

“(a) facilitate public involvement in its legislative and other processes and in the processes of its committees;

(b) ensure that interested parties are consulted about Bills being considered by Parliament, unless such consultation is inappropriate or impracticable.”

It is only through such co-operation with the media that we can safeguard the sacred public interest and ensure that the people of Zimbabwe’s views, their hopes and aspirations underpin the business of Parliament openly. Indeed, it is only through such cooperation that we can reflect our mutual desire to involve the public in the national governance system in order to promote good governance, advance democracy, uphold constitutionalism and the rule of law and to make the work of Parliament of Zimbabwe visible to the general public. The millions of Zimbabweans who are glued to Question Time on ZTV every Wednesday and Tursday with a faithfulness akin to discipleship attest to the importance of this co-operation. The multitude of Zimbabweans who have actively contributed to the legislative process during the two occasions when we have conducted live radio public hearings on Bills validate the importance of this agreement. While ZTV has already been playing a pivotal role in enhancing the visibility of Parliament through live streaming of Question Time and reportage on Committee activities, this has, regrettably, been ad- hoc and often at the sole discretion and direction of the national broadcaster. Going forward, it is envisaged that through this co-operation agreement, ZBC shall, in addition to question and answer sessions, have the mandate of live streaming Parliamentary debates, budget consultations, Committee meetings and other mutually agreed activities of Parliament on television, radio stations and other social media platforms, including but not limited to live-chat and You Tube.  As the first female President of Kosovo, Atifete Jahjaga, rightly observed, “Democracy is built through open societies that share information. When there is information, there is enlightenment. When there is debate, there are solutions.”[2]

 

Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

The signing of this MoU could not have come at a more opportune time. We are aware that the analogue to digital migration programme which Zimbabwe is currently seized with as part of a global adoption of modern broadcast technology, will create an additional 12 television channels with half of these earmarked for ZBC and the other 6 for private players. We are mindful that as part of government’s thrust towards employment creation, it is envisaged that 75 percent of the programme content will be created locally.  ZBC will undoubtedly require a massive investment in local programmes to air on these additional channels. Through the signing of this agreement, therefore, we have strategically positioned ourselves as an ubiquitous source of much needed programmes for our national broadcaster. Our ultimate objective is to have a channel dedicated entirely to Parliament akin to the Parliamentary Service Channel in South Africa which is aired on DSTV. The switch from analogue broadcasting to digital terrestrial television thus provides a unique opportunity for both Parliament and ZBC to leverage on this MoU and keep the people of Zimbabwe, from whom our legislative authority is derived, informed and involved in the business of Parliament. It is my hope that the responsible Ministry will approach the migration programme with a renewed sense of urgency which underpins the unfolding compelling dispensation.

 

Last but by no means least, the signing of this formative MoU underlines our commitment as the Eighth Parliament to the attainment of the goals we set for ourselves in our Institutional Strategic Plan. Strategic Goal 3 of our Institutional Strategic Plan requires us to “Promote the involvement of the public and other key stakeholders in the business of Parliament in order to create a positive image of Parliament.” We acknowledge the observation by Professor David Beetham (2006:2) that “while individual Parliamentary representatives at the constituency level may be respected, Parliaments as an institutions and politicians as a group do not rate highly in public esteem in many countries. This negative public perception is due, in part, to the fact that some of the positive outcomes of the work that Parliament does are stories that remain untold in the public domain. As an old African proverb aptly states, “Until the lion learns how to write, the story will always glorify the hunter.” It is our hope that through this co-operation agreement, ZBC will assist us to project a positive image of Parliament and restore the people of Zimbabwe’s hope and confidence in their elected representatives individually and in the collective ability of the institution to effectively fulfil its sacrosanct constitutional mandate.

 

Additionally, the signing of this MoU confirms our intention to translate our Institutional Strategic Plan into concrete action. In the words of the American author, Steve Maraboli, “When you establish a destination by defining what you want, then take physical action by making choices that move you towards that destination, the possibility for success is limitless and arrival at the destination is inevitable.[3] Together with ZTV, National FM, Power FM, SFM and Radio Zimbabwe the possibility of involving the people of Zimbabwe in the business of Parliament is limitless. Arrival at our destination of a visible, open, transparent and accessible Parliament is all but assured and inevitable through the implementation of the letter and spirit of this MOU.

 

In conclusion, let me state that it is my fervent hope that through co-operation with ZBC, the Eighth Parliament will leave an indelible footprint as a Parliament that reached out to all Zimbabweans, particularly those in the hinterland, gave voice to the voiceless, the disenfranchised and the marginalised, and guaranteed their active participation in the national governance matrix and, by extension, the national development agenda.

 

I THANK YOU

 



[1] Inter Parliamentary Union (2006:1) Parliament and Democracy in the Twenty First Century: A Guide to Good Practice. IPU. Switzerland.

[2] www.brainyquote.com accessed 05 December 2017

[3] Maraboli. S. (2009:166) Life, The Truth and Being Free. Better Today Publishing. Washington.

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