Southern Times Writer The Southern Times newspaper, a regional SADC weekly newspaper formed in September 2004, celebrates its 15th anniversary this year in what would be a milestone towards the promotion of regional integration. A joint venture between New Era Publications Corporation of Namibia (NEPC) and Zimbabwe Newspapers (1980) Limited (Zimpapers) who each hold 50 percent shareholding, the newspaper’s objective is to be the leading publisher of SADC regional news from an African perspective. The Southern Times hit the streets across the SADC region in September 2004 after NEPC and Zimpapers created a company, NamZim (Pvt) Limited, which publishes the newspaper. Officials this week said there are plans to revamp the newspaper into a fully-fledged SADC newspaper with distribution and marketing agents in various capitals across the region. A few weeks ago, Zimbabwe’s Minister of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Monica Mutsvangwa was in Windhoek where she met with her Namibian counterpart, Stanley Simaata, who is the Minister of Information, Communication and Technology. An undertaking to transform The Southern Times into a fully-fledged SADC regional publication was also made. This is in line with a 2017 resolution of the SADC Council of Ministers of Information, Communication and Technology. “The two delegations noted the good work NamZim had done through The Southern Times over the past 15 years to champion the idea of a regional newspaper that allows the SADC region to tell its own narrative,” reads a communique released at the end of the ministers’ meeting. “In the spirit of the cooperation, the two ministers enjoined their technical teams to deliver a draft revised MOU by end of April 2019 with a view of signing it during the Namibia-Zimbabwe Permanent Joint Commission scheduled for May/June 2019.” Zimbabwe and Namibia enjoy cordial ties which stretch back to liberation wars in the two countries. Mutsvangwa pledged to deepen the two countries’ bilateral ties in the information sector. “ The two ministers acknowledged the excellent relations between the two countries that date back to the days of the liberation struggles and reaffirm their commitment to deepen and strengthen the bilateral relations in the information sector,” reads the statement. The two parties resolved to “review and revitalise the 2014 MOU in line with developments in technology and realities on the ground and create scope of the implementation of the agreements in the broadcasting and news agencies sectors”. The Southern Times seeks to provide news, feature articles, analyses, and opinion pieces from African perspective as well market the SADC region’s tourism and investment opportunities. The newspaper is guided by the journalistic core values of balanced reporting, truthfulness, objectivity, and timelessness of information. It seeks to promote SADC regional integration and the promotion of unity and co-operation amongst the people of the region. The Southern Times was launched to fill a growing demand for news of the SADC region and beyond, a demand that has been sadly neglected for far too long. It seeks to challenge the imbalance in the flow of information from the Western media to the global south, where Africa is always portrayed as a dark continent filled with poverty, diseases, war, hunger, and tin-pot dictators. Based on the principles that knowledge and information are key to bringing people together, the newspaper’s mandate is to unite the people of the SADC region through celebrating their diverse cultures and traditions, telling their own successes and highlighting their challenges as well exploring ways in which the region could benefit from its vast mineral resources, prime agricultural land, as well as good climate. Most countries in the SADC region share history dating back before colonialism, which was cemented through their armed struggles against settler rule up to independence and developments thereafter. The formation of The Southern Times was therefore to enable the countries of the region to continue strengthening their bonds and bringing their peoples together. The newspaper is headquartered in Windhoek, Namibia, where its main newsroom is, together with a team of journalists which is supported by marketing and advertising people, as well as distribution and accounts teams. The other newsroom and a team of reporters as well as distribution, advertising and marketing people are based at the Zimpapers head office at Herald House in Harare. The Southern Times has a team of correspondents dotted across the SADC region in Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, South Africa and Zambia. The founding editor of The Southern Times was Moses Magadza, who was deputised by Max Hamata. In 2008, the editorship changed hands with veteran journalist and former Herald and Chronicle editor, Innocent Gore, replacing Magadza as editor, and Peter Mietzner coming in as his deputy editor. The editorship changed hands again in 2009, with former Manica Post editor Makuwerere Bwititi, now late, replacing Gore as editor. Further editorial changes saw former Sunday Mail editor Mabasa Sasa, who is now heading the Zimpapers Syndication project, replacing Bwititi as editor in 2011-2013. Itayi Musengeyi, now editor of Zimpapers’ The Suburban, was editor from 2013-2015; former Chronicle editor Mduduzi Mathuthu was editor between 2015 and 2016; and Gore was appointed as editor for the second time in 2017. He is deputised by Tileni Mongudhi from Namibia. Gore said the newspaper was headed for exciting times as it continues to tell the story of Southern Africa. He said over the years, the newspaper’s digital footprint has grown tremendously with its readership now extending beyond the SADC region. It is a great source of information for academics at universities in the SADC region, he said. Magadza challenged The Southern Times to woo the SADC region’s business community to advertise through it. He said the weekly must continue on its path of regional integration and not shy away from speaking truth to power, offering constructive criticism and hold regional and continental bodies to account with a view to making them work better for the citizens of SADC. Musengeyi, who was editor when the newspaper celebrated its 10th anniversary, which he described as a milestone achievement on the part of staff, the board as well as the Namibian and Zimbabwean shareholders of the paper, said he looked forward to the newspaper’s 15th anniversary. Veteran sports journalist and senior assistant editor at The Herald, Robson Sharuko, who has covered regional sports stories for The Southern Times since its inception, went down memory lane: “Zambia’s 2012 AFCON triumph in Libreville, the very Gabonese city that used to represent tragedy for them after that plane crash off its coast in 1993 wiped out a generation of Chipolopolo’s finest players, was as stunning as it was emotional with Christopher Katongo and his men defying the odds to emerge triumphant. “It was a landmark moment for Southern Africa and probably the finest feel-good story we covered for the region – the boundless joy among the players and their coaching staff, the wild party that erupted in Zambia and the celebrations that also rocked Southern Africa as everyone joined the fun.