Sacked Malawi director of information Cheke Ziwa speaks out

I thought it is important for me to put this word out there looking at the many things coming out in many circles regarding my exit at the Department of Information.

I can confirm that I have official communication to wind up my affairs at the Ministry of Information. Says the letter, dated 28th November 2012, “the exigencies of the service require that you be posted to the Office of the President and Cabinet pending further redeployment.” Proceed, therefore, to wind up your affairs as Director of Information in the Ministry of Information and arrange to report to the Office of the President and Cabinet as soon as possible” concludes the letter.

Since the letter does not give specific dates, in liaison with PS Information, I will only stay on as may be reasonably deemed necessary by Ministry of Information to wind up on my handover notes and carry out only those assignments that the Ministry deems reasonable, and I am sure it will not be beyond end of this week before my winding up. At the moment I have asked each Deputy Director to be in full control of their sections i.e. Press and Publications, Audio-Visual Services, and Civic Education so that I can fully concentrate on good handover notes for my successor…I hope you are aware that the Department has three Deputy Directors (one responsible for Press and Publications, another responsible for Audio Visual Services and the other one Responsible for Civic Education).

Cheke Ziba

Sucssess

There have been no major mishaps in covering the President, Vice President and Government in general on the news and audio visual services fronts because it is our duty to do that as Department of Information, another achievement iswww.manaonline.gov.mw and the soon to-go-live Central Office of Information website which will be a hub of Government information, ready for public consumption, from every government ministry, government department as well as other public institutions including parastatals; going further we have made huge and significant reaps on the policy framework front i.e. access to information, national civic education policy and Media policy – the frameworks to take the work forward are solidly in place, we have also made sure we are operating to the word and spirit of the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy and more recently to the Economic Recovery Plan, we have made sure that what we do as a Department is in tandem with those two developmental blue prints, further, we have achieved some form of training for District information Officers (DIOs), (when I came no DIO could remember the last time they attended a Ministry of Information organized training – but in the short time, we have somehow salvaged that area).

We also have tried to cultivate good relations between the Ministry and the outside world especially the media, other public institutions and civil society…we have carried out joint projects with NAMISA for example, some of them are just bearing fruits, we have attended high level conceptulization meetings with some development partners, high level meetings with MEC on planning for Civic Education as regards the tripartite elections etc – very good and fruitful relations, I must say,  Digital TV broadcasting issues have become so advanced in my tenure of office so much that we now have a full draft policy document on Digital TV broadcasting and by March 2013, at least all the four cities in the country should receive TV services via the digital platform other than than the analogue platform, and I am happy to report that I was chairperson of the Policy Subcommittee on Digital Broadcasting), initial equipment for DIGITAL TV BROADCASTING should be purchased before end of January.

And the other issue I really think is important is that we have worked tirelessly with MBC to expand their national reach as regards news coverage and we have reached an understanding that DIOs can report directly for MBC particularly on the radio platform, and TV once in a while, last but not least, we just started giving thoughts to getting an editorial policy and a house style for the Malawi News Agency in situ alongside a staff restructuring of senior officers for the Department…

Challenges

The Department of Information works on a very tight budget, the expectations and the resources do not match at all; Vehicles – the Department is running on very old vehicles and it is my hope that the proposal we have worked on will be considered positively and very seriously; Staffing quality and quantity – I just think that the quality of staff needs to improve as well as numbers.

Those that have diplomas  should upgrade to Degrees and in my tenure we have managed to pay fees for a number of staff members to study for higher qualifications; those that have certificates should take steps to obtain higher qualifications and I suggest future recruitments should peg the first Degree as the minimum especially for the “Newsmen” and Civic Education Officers. If I stayed that was going to be my ambition for the Department. And in general terms, the work ethic and approach are slightly below optimal.

Conclusion

I can comfortably say that my 10 months at the helm of the Department of Information have been tough but fulfilling and joyous in many ways. I think I leave a better work ethic than I found, I leave a much happier staff lot than I found (I can tell you some have literally come to cry in my office upon hearing the news and letting it sink in)…I have no regrets because I am quite satisfied with the record I have chalked at the Department.

I also very much am a believer in the future and I think I will be able to serve Government optimally wherever they think of placing me and it does not matter where, I will do my best and I will probably tick to their satisfaction

I thought I should say this because of the many angles I’m reading as regards my story.

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