A CABINET minister yesterday defended the Information and Media Panel of Inquiry (Impi) saying it was crucial to end the divisions reflected in the media, a day after Zanu PF MP Joseph Chinotimba criticitised allowances paid to panelists.
Chinotimba queried the relevance of Impi when the government was failing to pay war veterans their allowances.
The Buhera South MP also questioned the source of funding for the panel, which he said was gathering information on obvious issues such as lack of television transmission in areas like Tsholotsho.
But Media, Information and Broadcasting Services minister Jonathan Moyo said Impi was indispensable.
“For the past 15 years, we have seen polarisation of the media which created divisions among ourselves which also affected its conduct,” he said.
“Media have become the drama . . . the government has failed to access offshore money because of our divisions reflected in the media.”
Moyo said Impi led by veteran journalist Geoffrey Nyarota was funded to the tune of $1,6 million by the government.
He told the Media, Information and Broadcasting Services parliamentary portfolio committee that Impi members, who comprised mainly senior journalists and editors from both the private and State media, were each getting a sitting allowance of $300.
“Impi is funded to the tune of $1,6 million from Treasury and members of the committee are getting a daily sitting allowance of $300,” Moyo said.
He said the panel was now left with conducting a mop-up exercise and touring regional countries to exchange notes.
The panel crisscrossed the country gathering public views on the media in the past two months.
“The committee has since completed gathering evidence locally and would soon embark on regional tours that will take them to Zambia, South Africa, Kenya and possibly Tanzania to learn from those countries’ experiences,” Moyo added.
He said the Impi report would be made public once it had been presented to his office.
Impi was set up in March this year to inquire into the state of the media, media policies and welfare of practitioners, among other issues.
Some Zanu PF members are reportedly unhappy with Impi activities as they feel it’s being used by Moyo to advance his own interests.
Moyo also told the committee that the country would immediately raise $200 million to fund digital broadcasting migration by auctioning part of its frequency spectrum to mobile phone operators.
His comments came after Zimbabwe missed the Sadc digitalisation deadline of August 2013 and the prospect of further missing the June 2015 International Telecommunication Union deadline with dire potential financial consequences.
Moyo told the committee Zimbabwe needed $173 million for the digitalisation project and the money could not be raised offshore because of investors’ negative perception of the country.
“Digitalisation will create a digital dividend through the freeing of extra frequency spectrum that can be auctioned to mobile phone operators for a minimum of $200 million,” he said.
“That would be good economics and the freed spectrum will be auctioned to current mobile players who want it or even a new player. It’s a matter of policy; if this is done we would get the money now.”
Moyo said the digitalisation programme would allow mobile phone operators to have the latest technology LTE enabling them to offer more value added services like high speed Internet.
Meanwhile, Moyo said there was nothing amiss with the appointment of Sunday Mail editor Edmund Kudzayi despite his age.
“I was happy that this country has more young people who deserve a chance to prove themselves,” he said. “I would not be surprised by his age alone.”
MPs had asked if it was appropriate to appoint a 28-year-old as editor of the paper. Kudzayi has been accused of being the shadowy Facebook blogger Baba Jukwa.