Information and Broadcasting Services permanent secretary Ndavaningi “Nick” Mangwana says ZBC urgently needs an overhaul.
Mangwana (NM), who took over from the long-serving George Charamba, told our senior reporter Richard Chidza (RC) in an interview that “ZBC will have to deliver programmes fit for purpose and in line with the aspirations of our people.” Below are excerpts from the interview.
RC: What is your reaction to social media critics who say you canvassed for this position through bootlicking and other means?
NM: Those who follow my social media interactions are very clear that bootlicking is never my political genre.
I have been writing introspective columns in national newspapers for a very long time and none of my articles fits the characterisation of a bootlick.
If President (Emmerson) Mnangagwa was looking for a bootlicker then I would have stood no chance because our terrain is replete with such and there is a snowball chance in hell that I would have been considered, let alone been picked.
There are reasons my work came to the attention of the president and praising-singing is not one of them.
RC: Were you expecting to be rewarded with any government position following your role in Zanu PF’s campaign during the July 30 elections?
NM: I think public service roles are an opportunity to serve rather than a reward.
They are not an achievement either. They are just a privilege to help shape the direction of your country or simply a chance to be part of something (in this case transformational and great).
I have always worked hard for my country even when it was not fashionable to do the work I was doing for government and Zanu PF in the UK and Europe.
The risk was always higher than the (then non-existent) rewards. I did all I did out of conviction and patriotism rather than as a rent-seeking endeavour. You all saw me attending every national event every year from independence celebrations, heroes commemorations to Zanu PF annual conferences and congresses after flying in at a huge personal cost.
All those trips and stays in Zimbabwe were being paid out of my family sacrifices with no expectation of a reward.
And what I got now is a call to serve at a different level and get paid for it as well as an obvious recognition.
I have worked at a high risk of deportation as our then politics led some of my compatriots to directly campaign for such an outcome.
During “operation restore legacy” with the outcome of the intervention still unclear, I was regardless, at the forefront of articulating to the world what was happening and how it was going to unfold step by step.
Anyone who wanted the events roadmap had only to listen to my broadcasts.
This was a great personal risk, which included facing death on arrival in Zimbabwe had things gone the other way.
Mine was the voice any world leader who wanted to understand what was happening in Zimbabwe would listen to.
There was no reward expected, but the desire to see my country go in a different direction. If I expected a reward I would have contested elections and cried out for a through-pass as an entitlement.
But I did not even contest a primary [election]. So this campaign was not the first I had had for Zanu PF. On the contrary, I started writing about the need for “reform” when that was a still a swear word within Zanu PF.
I challenge anyone to go back to those old articles. Even when I addressed Zanu PF conferences, my thrust was only on reform and modernisation. It’s no surprise why the president probably felt I could fit in the team.
By the time of these elections, I already had the attention of the president who of course also followed the operation restore legacy from a foreign land and I was appearing on most international channels all day long.
RC: Can Zimbabweans expect a non-partisan Ndavaningi Mangwana now that you are a high-ranking civil servant? We ask this in light of your pro-Zanu PF articles in The Herald and activities on Twitter?
NM: Zimbabweans are assured that they will be working with a non-partisan professional civil servant. I will leave my political preferences away from work. Every public official and civil servant has a political preference, that’s why they vote.
I am no exception.
The only difference between them and I is that I have vocalised mine and everyone knows who I vote for.
But when it comes to the execution of my duties and the service to the public, I carry a passport written “Zimbabwe”.
That is part of my identity and that ranks first above and ahead of all else.
I will continue writing, but my writing is going to be focussed on expounding current policy thrusts and any other issues, which need unpacking.
Naturally, this will be in the whole supportive of the government I serve, which coincidentally is led by my former party.
RC: You were very critical of ZBC before your appointment and now that you are the permanent secretary what changes do you want to see at the broadcaster in the short-term?
NM: I was very critical of the ZBC. That’s correct. I have already had conversations with the CEO Mr Mavhura about my criticism.
He says they actually held meetings about that tweet and even today he validates it.
The minister, deputy minister and I have already met the ZBC board and the management team and we have already had many interactions with them.
Every honest Zimbabwean out there knows there is a need for a big shift at the ZBC.
Their output does not do Brand Zimbabwe and the Second Republic any favours.
ZTV should be the channel of choice for any foreigner who is in Zimbabwe because it should help them understand the country, it’s culture and people.
But when you have that self-adjusting volume and poor programming, it does not help.
Both the minister and I have agreed that change is needed and the change is going to be immediate.
The impact may take a few weeks, but the tasks will be now.
We want viewers to watch quality programmes and professional programme presenting.
We will listen to all stakeholders and ranked higher than any will be viewers and listeners. ZBC will have to deliver programmes fit for purpose and in line with the aspirations of our people.