Regional Governing Council Chairperson, Golden Maunganidze
18 August 2022
Walking in the footprints of a giant – tribute to former RGC member Fernando Gonçalves on leadership transition.
MISA Mozambique NGC Chairperson, Jeremias Langa;
MISA Mozambique NGC members
MISA Mozambique stakeholders
Mr Fernando Gonçalves, Sir!
Members of the MISA RGC & Regional Secretariat
Ladies and Gentlemen!
We are happy and grateful to be in Maputo, Mozambique, at the invitation and in solidarity with our Chapter, MISA Mozambique.
More importantly, our presence here today is also in recognition of the pivotal role played by the immediate past chairperson of the MISA Mozambique National Governing Council and member of the Regional Governing Council, Mr Fernando Gonçalves.
Before venturing into this appreciation speech in tribute to one of the colossal sons of MISA, the region and the continent, let me quickly highlight the plight of the continent in respect of the state of free expression, a cause we live to defend.
Ladies and Gentlemen, we meet at a time of increased attacks on freedom of expression, media freedom and access to information. This points to a worrying decline in the state of freedoms in the countries of our region, worse off as we have a series of electoral processes scheduled for this year and in the foreseeable future.
Botswana, long regarded as a bastion of democracy, saw a sharp decline in its rankings falling from 38 to 95 on the World Press Freedom Index. This was the steepest decline by a Southern African country.
Worryingly too, South Africa recorded a decline for the second year in a row, falling three places, from 32 in 2021 to 35 in 2022.
Malawi, which last year recorded a rise in the rankings – thanks to the enactment of its access to information law – recorded a decline from 62 to 80.
Mozambique witnessed a sharp decline, falling from 108 in 2021 to 116 in 2022.
Zimbabwe also recorded a decline, falling from 130 in the previous year to 137 this year.
Lesotho remained unchanged as it was rated 88 in both 2021 and 2022.
However, it was not all gloom and doom as some countries recorded impressive gains in this year’s rankings.
Seychelles emerged as the best-ranked nation on the continent, as it was placed 13th globally. Namibia continues to perform remarkably, being positioned 18th, an improvement from the 24th position recorded in the previous year.
Angola moved from 103 to 99, while Eswatini gained 10 places from 141 in 2021 to 131 this year.
Tanzania gained one place from 124th to 123rd. Zambia was also another gainer, moving from 115 to 109.
The significance of this meeting can never be overemphasised, as the region is facing concerted pressures, especially on expression, access to information, and freedom of expression.
More worrying, is the rush by the member states in the region to enact cyber security and data protection laws after the “Maputo Declaration”, so to speak, following the resolution by the heads of state and governments to tighten control on social media and internet use in August 2020.
To illustrate this, countries such as Botswana, Eswatini, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe have already passed cyber security and cybercrime laws, while countries such as Namibia and Lesotho, are in the process of crafting legislation on cyber security and cybercrime.
Namibia is working on the wording of the same.
As MISA, we continue to call on the SADC region to adopt a Human Rights-Based Approach to these issues. Such an approach will ensure that enacted or proposed legislation considers the urgent need to balance cybersecurity needs with the need to protect and promote the fundamental right to privacy and freedom of expression.
Ladies and gentlemen, it is key to underscore the strength of MISA Mozambique and specifically the immediate past chairperson in facilitating a smooth leadership transition of his administration to the current crop of leaders.
Strong corporate governance leads to strong institutions. When members such as MISA Mozambique are strong, our network becomes a consequential force in mediating enjoyment of rights and keeping power in check.
In essence, this illustrates how MISA, as an organisation, has managed to present itself as the shield of free expression for the people of Southern Africa, and a strategic player in regional, continental and international interventions on the issue.
Why celebrate the leadership of Mr Gonçalves?
Mr Goncalves, like little giants, we stand here as MISA on your towering shoulders and those of others of your generation!
We do so by proclaiming it to the world that we, at MISA, had the privilege to tap into the wisdom and guidance of the founding generation of this organisation!
In this case, we have striven to do right by keeping on course with the cause of defending expression in the region! Deserting this course and cause would have been a betrayal and gross deviation from the indelible path set for us by such a giant campaigner for free expression!
When this desertion almost happened, with the temporary closure of MISA Regional Offices in Namibia in 2015, we received a call from the old timer, Mr. Gonçalves reminding us of the need to resuscitate the network.
We listened attentively as members of the network across the eight countries, as he motivated for the re-rejuvenation and need for such a network, as there wasn’t anyone else that could play that role.
This, he said, was our unique value proposition, as the rest are floating in bubble form without the in-country presence we have and mainly exist through riding on MISA structures.
We are fortunate that we had such a big pair of hands on the congested deck. Importantly, we thank God that we will continue to draw from his huge experiences and knowledge, as developments in the region show that we will experience more attacks on the rights to expression, media freedom, and access to information.
In our quest to liquidate all forms of attacks on expression in an increasingly complex environment, the re-birth of MISA to respond to the afore-noted attacks on expression would have taken longer if Gonçalves had not assumed the leadership position which he discharged with grace and great humility.
To this, I say I was truly moved by the personal and professional hand of companionship, solidarity and leadership development of the MISA brand as we know it today.
I will, therefore, not hesitate to say like many before him, he is one of the most eminent sons and daughters of the network, the region and the continent, to whom many accolades are due notably:
- an accolade for leading MISA Mozambique through both moments of tribulations and triumph
- an accolade of consolidating acts of people-to-people solidarity and collaboration between and among the peoples of the region, continent and the entire world
- immensely contributing to an outward-looking network that is now competitively shaping regional, continental, and international conversations on defending expression
- being the rock-solid source of stability in the Regional Governing Council and the network, given his wealth of experience and the miles accrued in the leadership journey in media and free expression activism.
In stating that he propelled the evolution of the network in its newly founded form, character, and texture, I do so knowing very well that no one will challenge this bold statement.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I hope you understand why I highlighted that his overarching hands were needed more today than ever.
However, as he steps out of the formal leadership and takes a pause on this journey, we look to always emulate his sacrifices; courage; thought leadership; permeating spirit of solidarity.
In that regard, together with the new leadership we are more than determined to take the mantle forward as we strengthen the organisation as a shield for the people of Southern Africa.
Allow me to end where I began, by asserting that any thoughts of deserting the course and cause of defending expression as a unitary force would have been to condemn ourselves in the presence of such a giant campaigner of free expression!
In doing so, we would have unforgivably trashed and insulted the great sacrifices Gonçalves made during his enduring journey with MISA.