Windhoek - Namibia Vice President Nangolo Mbumba has applauded The Southern Times newspaper for being in existence for 15 years and still going strong as a paper that tells the story of SADC and promotes regional integration, despite funding challenges.
Being one of the pioneers of the paper which is a brainchild of Namibian and Zimbabwean governments, Mbumba said the two governments are hopeful that the paper will continue to grow and see other SADC member states fully come on board as shareholders.
“I am satisfied that The Southern Times is still in existence. It is our baby and you know when a baby is in existence, alive, you should be happy. But whether the baby is healthy, jumping up and down or showing that there is intelligence and energy, that’s a different question,” said Mbumba in an interview at his office this week.
“We are hopeful that other SADC member states will join as shareholders of The Southern Times. Angola, for instance, has shown a great interest in really coming on board. The country was even writing stories in Portuguese. However, their economy had some hiccups economically and things became difficult and it was no longer possible for them to continue.
“I think the willingness is still there and we continue to encourage them to come on board. They do not have to start by big money, but even starting with having their own stories and to print copies in their country,” he said.
Mbumba said the newspaper was a brainchild of senior political leaders of the two countries to demystify the myths, lies, assumptions and misrepresentations of the SADC region by foreign media.
“The need to share information as SADC member states and tell our own story was recognised not by us, but by our own senior leaders. Our governments felt that we were not getting a fair deal to speak for ourselves. We had other foreign media portraying what they wanted and felt about our region which was not what was exactly on the ground. So we thought, let us speak for ourselves and on behalf of our people and expand the information about Namibia and Zimbabwe. We then agreed on expanding our information coverage, to include what is happening in Namibia, Zimbabwe and the rest of the SADC region,” said Mbumba.
He said the idea behind the initiative was to promote the independence, policies, economy and diplomacy of the region.
Before the establishment of The Southern Times, he said, coverage of regional issues was very poor and characterized by half-baked stories based on assumptions where foreign news agencies would conclude before the official communication or responses were made.
The Southern Times was established in September 2004 as joint venture between New Era Corporation Publications and Zimbabwe Newspapers. Since then, the paper has grown and extended its readership beyond the region, more so through its digital and social media platforms.
However, Mbumba said after 15 years of existence, the paper was supposed to have been much better than it is.
“I am not happy with the current state of the paper because I was hoping that by now the paper should have been much better. Yes, the paper is receiving political support and the support is mandate, however, I think the issue of resources is a challenge for the paper. If the paper receives more resources, then it would reach greater heights. “You know skills and wide coverage also come when you have resources. Most stories in the paper are coming from the tip of SADC but we need to cover more on all that is happening in the whole of SADC region,” he said.