Journalists from Mashonaland West province have challenged organisations to decentralise their public relations offices from national to provincial level, or even to districts, as this would go a long way in helping journalists to easily get information held by public institutions.
Speaking during a 2020 Transparency Index Report launch conducted by the Media Institute of Southern Africa in Chinhoyi recently, scribes from across the media divide concurred there is need to decentralise public relations offices for easy access to information.
"We as journalists coming from provinces, we think there is need to have functional public relations offices where we get timeous responses to our information requests.
"This makes our jobs easier so that we write well-sourced stories, and avoid scripting copies with anonymous sources, a trend which degrades professionalism" said James Muonwa, NewsAnchor founding managing editor.
Farai Chikore, a correspondent for government-controlled NewZiana lamented beauracracy which is pervasive in government institutions.
"The issue of bureaucracy is really affecting us as you keep on being referred to national spokespersons for comments. You might be having first hand information or be onsite of a news beat but you would need official comment, for example from the police, but you are frustrated.
"Decentralisation must come with powers for the provincial or district media public relations officers to give responses to information requests as some of the PR officers seem to be powerless to respond, but refer us to national spokespersons," said Chikore.
MISA board member and former editor of The Standard, Davison Maruziva urged media lobbysts to push for further relaxation of media legislation curtailing easy access to information held by public institutions.-LOCAL NEWS.


Media lobby organisations and other stakeholders have been called upon to intensify lobbying government for further relaxation of media laws that curtail easy and timeous access to information held by public institutions.

The clarion call comes in the wake of a slight shift by President Emmerson Mnangagwa's administration allowing the media access to information, albeit some quarters still feel public institutions deny media practitioners access to data.

Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Zimbabwe board member, Davison Maruziva said the media must celebrate strides made to enable journalists easy access to public information, underscoring the need to engage government to further relax some draconian media laws.

"As we lobby for further relaxation of media laws, we need to celebrate the gains made so far. For example, the mandatory timeline that a public institution respond to a request for information within 21 days.

"We now have the Freedom of Information Bill that will replace AIPPA (Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act) which had some shortcomings. So we will get there, maybe even up to seven days," said Maruziva, former editor of The Standard.

Maruziva made the observation during the Zimbabwe 2020 Transparency Index Report held in Chinhoyi recently.

The transparency assessment identified the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) as the most open institution in the country, while Chitungwiza Municipality was adjudged the most secretive.

MISA has been conducting research and studies since 2009 to establish the difficulty with which citizens in the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) encounter to get public information.

The study was also part of commemorations to mark the International Day for Universal Access to Information which is commemorated yearly on 28 September.

EMA was assessed as the most open institution after being assessed as being active on social media and maintaining a "partially" up to date website. Although the institution was unable to provide information that had been requested, they explained their reasons for not availing it.

The report noted that Chitungwiza Municipality ignored requests for information.

Other organisations featured in the survey are: Chipinge Rural District Council, Forestry Commission of Zimbabwe, Ministry of Health and Child Care, Ministry of Mines and Mining Development, Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education, Ministry of Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises Development, Mutare City Council and Zimbabwe School Examinations Council.

Regionally, similar studies were conducted in Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Tanzania and Zambia. (Picture: Davison Maruziva)-LOCAL NEWS


By John Mrwira

The Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs has partnered a non-governmental organisation, Community Alliance for Human Settlements in Zimbabwe (CAHSZ), to raise public awareness on the provisions of the country's Constitution in marginalised communities.
The new Constitution was adopted in 2013 and some laws are still to be aligned to it.
Addressing a public awareness meeting on the Constitution in Alaska, a former mining settlement on the outskirts of Chinhoyi, acting director (Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs) in the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Charles Manhiri said it was government's thrust, as provided for in the Constitution of Zimbabwe, to ensure citizens were aware of the supreme law.
"Knowledge of the Constitution will empower citizens to actively participate in matters affecting them, such as development," he said.
Manhiri reiterated the ministry had also embarked on various initiatives to popularise the supreme law among the general citizenry. He said people also needed to understand what the law provides and how it affects their livelihoods.
"Some of the landmark achievements we did as a ministry was to come up with the Constitution in all our indigenous languages to make sure all different speaking citizens can understand the Constitution."
The Constitution is also available in braille, he added.
Netsai Zvakasikwa, chief law officer with the ministry, urged local leadership to help in unpacking provisions of the national law.
Zvakasikwa underscored that compliance with the constitutional requirements by citizens results in economic development of the country.
"Land is critical in our Constitution as most of the activities or resources we use come from land. So abiding by the dictates of the Constitution pertaining land will translate to development," she said.
Francis Mukora, advocacy and  communications coordinator for CAHSZ, said the partnership with the ministry meant to promote constitutional awareness to marginalised communities was critical.
 "Thus as CAHSZ we hope that through this partnership with government we will be able to nurture a culture of active citizen participation and engagement."
Centre for Youth Development Trust (CYEDT) coordinator, Clifford Musangeya welcomed the decentralisation of Constitution awareness to marginalised communities.
"The move taken by the ministry with their partner is commendable as marginalised communities usually lag behind in matters that affect them also as citizens of Zimbabwe, " he said.
"From this meeting we have been empowered as youths, we are going to share the knowledge with others so that we realise our constitutional rights and all other information that affect us as citizens of this country," said Trynos Mlambo, a participant.-LOCAL NEWS

By John Mrwira/ James Muonwa

ln a bid to ensure the safety of pupils and teachers of examination classes that are scheduled to reopen 28 September, a private company is rolling out a Covid-19 education awareness campaign as well as donating personal protective equipment (PPEs) to marginalised rural schools.
Odzi Foods Industries has embarked on a pilot project in Makonde district aimed at complementing government efforts to ensure both learners and teachers will be safe when exam classes resume. 
Final year pupils reopen 28 September in preparation for Grade Seven, Ordinary and Advanced Levels Zimbabwe Schools Examination Council (Zimsec) exams pencilled for December.
Education stakeholders have expressed reservations over the level of preparedness of schools, particularly those in rural areas, to implement World Health Organisation (WHO) safety, prevention and containment protocols.
Odzi Foods Industries chief executive officer, David Jazire said his company had noted concerns raised over the lack of preparedness by rural schools to restart classes in the wake of the deadly viral disease.
"Through this campaign, we hope to impart Covid-19 awareness messaging and distribute PPEs to rural communities across the country. We have done our pilot project in Makonde district which was overwhelmingly successful," said Jazire.
Come opening day, pupils and teachers will be confident of their safety in highly responsive environments, he said.
Jazire urged parents and guardians to continue educating pupils about the dangers of Covid-19 and monitor their movements.
"Parents must continuously educate their children who are going back to schools where they will meet with their classmates that Covid-19 is real. 
"They must observe all safety measures, which include social distancing, wearing masks correctly and hand sanitising. These remain key alongside all other preventive measures to curb the spread of Covid-19," Jazire said.
The company, through its project co-funding partners German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development, has contributed immensely to closing the information gap through dissemination of Covid-19 response mechanisms messaging in rural settings. 
The project also involves training of teachers, nurses and community health workers, who further cascade Covid-19 response information to the rural populace, thus bridging the void left by mainstream media.
Odzi Foods Industries has so far donated face masks and sanitisers to more than 170 schools, and distributed training material for  learners, teachers, health workers and the general public across Makonde district.
The project will soon be extended to other districts across the country.
(Picture: Odzi Foods Industries CEO, David Jazire)-LOCAL NEWS

By James Muonwa

The National Social Security Authority (NSSA) has gone into overdrive in its bid to spruce up its corporate reputation, which historically was battered by grand corruption and financial malfeasance.
NSSA acting general manager, Authur Manase conceded the statutory body's image had been heavily compromised by acts of dishonesty, opaque transactions, corruption and financial impropriety by some of it's staffers.
He said NSSA had adopted a new paradigm shift anchored on three pillars, which are transparency, honesty and accountability.
"We need to create a new NSSA anchored on three pillars of transparency, honesty and accountability. It has to cleanse it's past as business in the past was shrouded in secrecy," Manase said.
He added,"NSSA is custodian to people's contributions, so inorder to live up to its promises to stakeholders there should be zero tolerance to opaque transactions.
"Everyone wants security and needs to know upon retirement that their old-age sustenance is guaranteed."
Manase said his organisation had embarked on an ambitious exercise to increase corporate brand identity and educate the public of NSSA's mandate among various communities.
"We want to deligently execute our mandate and expand our visibility to the common populace further and further in rural areas, not only at growth points but also in villages.
"The common man has to have easy access to facilities on offer by NSSA," said the acting boss.
Manase appealed to journalists to help on it's transformation exercise by shying away from sensational news, but dwell on the positives achieved by NSSA inorder to cultivate trust and confidence among it's stakeholders.
NSSA's reputation suffered a heavy  knock during the tenure of former Social Welfare minister Prisca Mupfumira, who is now facing criminal charges for allegedly creaming-off over US$90 million from the quasi-parastatal. LOCAL NEWS

By James Muonwa

The insurance and pensions sector, which hedges contributors' funds in real estate, is reeling under the debilitating Covid-19 pandemic effects due to reduced housing and office occupancy levels and rental cuts.
Tenants, who are equally incapacitated by the pandemic, are reportedly negotiating for discounted rentals as business is depressed.
Insurance and Pensions Commission (IPEC) commissioner of insurance, pensions and provident funds, Grace Muradzikwa told journalists participating in a training webinar that most insurance and pensions administrators invest mostly in high-rise buildings and university students' accommodation.
Muradzikwa said due to Covid-19, tenants were requesting landlords to revise rents and rates downwards.
"Covid-19 has had an effect on the insurance and pensions administrators who have over 80% investment in skylines in cities as well as university students' accommodation.
"There are requests for reduced or discounted rentals and reduced occupancy levels, thereby impacting on the investment," said the former Nicoz Diamond chief executive.
She said despite the challenges wrought by Covid-19, the pensions sector was blossoming.
"The pensions sector had growth in asset base, an increase of 843% from June 2019 to June 2020," she said.
The Mining Industry Pensions Fund (MIPF), the Local Authorities Pensions Fund and the National Social Security Authority (NSSA) are some of the institutions with considerable investments into real estate straddling the length-and-breath of the country.
Muradzikwa, however, bemoaned the high number of unclaimed employee benefits, which stand at 153 000 members totalling $196 million.
She said IPEC was unable to trace beneficiaries and this has prompted the need to establish a search engine to track them down.
Meanwhile, IPEC has signalled a red flag on fraudulent claims which Muradzikwa  I average 30% of total claims, a trend occasioned by the inclement economic conditions. LOCAL NEWS

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Date: Thu, Sep 3, 2020, 07:22
Subject: Photo: Grace Muradzikwa
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