Windhoek-Zimbabwean permanent secretary in the Ministry of Information, Media and Broadcasting Services George Charamba has applauded Namibia’s legislation that regulates the filmmaking industry, saying Zimbabwe is interested in learning from Namibia on how to upgrade their legislation.
“This is one area where Namibia is really far ahead of us. You call yourselves a young sister to Zimbabwe because you were born after Zimbabwe. But in that area, you are in fact the first-born. I don’t know the level of implementation but the point is there is some framework,” said Charamba, who is also the spokesperson for Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe.
“You have a much better legislation of films, [and] that is an area where we would come shopping for ideas,” said Charamba at the opening of the bilateral consultation between the two countries in Windhoek yesterday.
The permanent secretary in the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology, Mbeuta Ua-Ndjarakana, said Namibia continues to work hard to improve the film industry.
“We continue to feel ashamed of ourselves thinking we have not done enough. But we have not stopped making efforts including working on a draft Bill for the film industry,” said Ua-Ndjarakana.
Zimbabwe and Namibia are reviewing the bilateral agreement on issues of media, including print and online, and broadcasting. The current agreement, which gave birth to the NamZim corporation – a joint venture between New Era Publication Corporation and Zimpapers that publishes the weekly Southern Times newspaper – dates back to 2004 and is in need of a review to address the changing media landscape and evolution of technologies.
Charamba described the memorandum of understanding between the two countries as one of friendship between Zimbabwe and Namibia, and one that is very important to the two countries.
“At political [level] nothing has changed but at commercial level so much has happened. We need to revise the MoU to ensure it is still relevant. Technology has also changed. This meeting is extremely strategic for us,” said Charamba.
Charamba was accompanied by senior officials from his ministry, as well as the executive heads of Zimpapers, Zimbabwean Broadcasting Corporation, the news agency Ziana, while Ua-Ndjarakana was accompanied by the executive heads of New Era Publication Corporation, NBC, Nampa and other senior executives from the ministry’s various departments.
The two-day meeting, which ends today, will result in a review of the memorandums of understanding between the relevant sister corporations in the two countries, and a draft MoU with agreed minutes for the consideration of the two information ministers.
Charamba also briefed his counterpart on how Zimbabwe is vigorously pushing for local content on its airwaves, whether it is by private broadcasters or public, to purely promote Zimbabwe’s cultural and local content.
“We are really looking at having an iconoclastic intervention from a political point of view,” he said.
He said the debate in Zimbabwe has been whether they should place the film production aspect under the Broadcasting Services Act or create a separate law.
“If you look at the proliferation of channels and content level of activities, there is no way you can treat it as a subsidiary in adjunct of a bigger law. It’s better to treat it as a full-blown area of development. That’s the area where we will come shopping for information so that when we move, we do so on the strength of experience. That’s the growth area we are looking at in respect of the film sector,” Charamba maintained.
It also transpired in the meeting that the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) has moved away from being a public-funded broadcaster, even though it is 100 percent owned by the state.
“They are expected to hunt and eat what they fetch. You don’t catch, then you don’t eat. That is the kind of discipline. They (ZBC) have no right to go to the fiscal for money,” he remarked.
He suggested countries like Namibia and Zimbabwe need to tighten their information laws especially in this era of digitalisation.
“If you are on Facebook, you can actually broadcast without being licensed. You just wake up one fine morning and there is a whole channel broadcasting – not even narrow broadcasting but they don’t pay anything. They don’t account to anyone and we realise we are drifting in dangerous terrains. We need to update our laws in that area,” he noted.