Each week, frayintermedia highlights a journalist doing good work on the continent and honours them as our #FaveOfTheWeek. Meet Zimbabwean journalist Veneranda Langa who is passionate about parliamentary reporting. Langa came first at the Zimbabwe Journalism awards on the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance for her story “Zim missed ACDEG opportunity to promote human rights”.
Q. How did you become a journalist?
A. My journalism career started in 2010 when I joined NewsDay as their parliamentary journalist. I used to work for the Parliament of Zimbabwe as a Hansard reporter, so it was very easy for me to change my career to journalism.
The NewsDay editors felt that I would make an effective parliamentary journalist because I understood policymaking processes very well as parliamentary procedure. They were right because ever since I joined the media field in 2010, I strongly feel that I've done very well in the parliamentary debate, although I have also written several stories and features on gender issues, finance, business and mining.
I have won three mining journalism awards. So I basically can also say that I am an all-rounder and can write about anything as long as I understand the subject well.
Q. What drew you to parliamentary reporting?
A. Well, parliamentary reporting is my speciality. I enjoy reporting on parliament issues because I get very exciting news there. It gives me a lot of relevance as a journalist as I scrutinise the policymaking processes in Zimbabwe.
I get to report about new pieces of legislation and their implications on the people of Zimbabwe. What I enjoy most about parliamentary reporting is that I get to expose the behaviour of MPs. Because you find that there are employees that are very vocal and they contribute to debate meaningfully and then they are those employees that just come to parliament, they attend, but they are just there to warm benches and have never contributed anything for the whole five-year term as MPs. So I like exposing such legislators.
I like writing about policy issues because I believe that through stories that I write, I can also contribute to ensuring that there is transparency and accountability in the country. I also think that the parliament bit is challenging because I get to report on different issues, the national budget and its implications, health issues, education, environment, politics, and the several different issues that are discussed in Parliament.
Q. What does winning the Zimbabwe Journalism Awards on the African Charter on Democracy, Elections, and Governance first prize mean to you?
A. Winning the Zimbabwe African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance, which is called ACDEC Awards, that was sponsored by ActionAid Zimbabwe, means a lot to me because as a journalist, it means that I was very effective in publicising a very important African Union policy.
So for me, as an African journalist, I see this charter as a very progressive instrument and if implemented by African states, I think that will definitely achieve the Africa that we want, an Africa that is developmental and can effectively use its natural resources to bring about development and to eradicate poverty in the continent. It is also a very beautiful chapter to me in that it gives checks and balances to member states to ensure that they promote democracy, good governance, and free and fair elections that bring about legitimacy to governments.
I write a lot about corruption and how it does not develop Africa and Zimbabwe, in particular. And this is one of the issues that is actually covered in ACDEC. ACDEC emphasises on principles of promoting human rights, promoting media freedoms, promoting the freedom to assemble gender rights, all rights, and several other rights such as socio-economic, political, and environmental rights.
Q. What stories should African journalists be reporting?
A. In my opinion, the stories that really matter for Africa are those that promote development. I think we should also tell positive stories about Africa, our rich culture and customs, the success stories of African men and women that have done very good things but are rarely talked about in the media. We don't publicise them a lot.
However, even though we should write positive things, I also feel that you must also be able to expose the things that are making some countries in Africa to become failed states. If we do not expose the effective nature of some of our leaders that pillage our natural resources and engage in corruption, then I think that as journalists we will lose relevance.
So, we should expose corruption, we must demand transparency and accountability in resource allocation and in the use of public funds. But we must also do it in a manner that promotes peacebuilding.
Q. Why, despite all the challenges in the profession, do you stay in journalism?
A. For me, journalism is a calling. It's difficult, but one has to continue. One has to keep treading on and expose corruption. People always say: "Once a journalist, always a journalist".
Personally, I have now ventured into public policy and development management even as I am a journalist. So if in the future I leave full-time journalism, I still think that I will continue to write as a columnist because journalism is very very addictive.
One finds purpose if they disseminate information that brings about positive change. And yes, journalists are arrested for exposing corrupt leaders and other powerful individuals. Some journalists have even been killed. It's a difficult field especially for female journalists like myself but we still need people that will disseminate information.
We still need people that will write you know that will broadcast. So it means that we'll have to be brave enough to stay in the profession. And maybe one day there will be a free press.