ZIMBABWE'S leading independent publisher, Trevor Ncube, says the launch of his first ever daily paper – NewsDay – is on course despite the crisis in the government of unity which will have to license his project, writes a jocoza correspondent.

Ncube, who publishes two weeklies in Zimbabwe – The Independent and Standard – says the launch of NewsDay is on course and predicts big things to come from his stable.

"It is our aim to be the biggest media house in the country and this printing press is pivotal to achieving that goal," he said.

"The Global Political Agreement (GPA) and the Inclusive Government gave us the reason to believe that the time had come for the NewsDay project which necessitated the investment that we are commissioning today. The fact that both the GPA and the inclusive government have hit turbulence is no reason not to believe in a better Zimbabwe with a free press. That day is still coming," said Ncube at the unveiling of his new printing press.

Leading principals in the Zimbabwe unity government – President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai – have disagreed on the outstanding issues in the GPA, consequently stalling the implementation of crucial media, electoraland human rights reforms.

Western agencies and international donors have withheld aid until they have been satisfied by reforms in the Zimbabwe unity government.

Zanu PF and the two formations of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) agreed to spearhead various media reforms in pursuance of their power-sharing agreement signed on September 15 2008.

The Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC), which is supposed to take over from the defunct Media and Information Commission that closed down several independent publications, is yet to be set up.

Last month, Media, Information and Publicity permanent secretary George Charamba threatened to close down NewsDay and cause the arrest of its editors if the paper started publishing without a licence.

But Ncube, who also owns the Mail & Guardian in South Africa, said he remained hopeful the newspaper will hit the news stands very soon.

"At a public meeting in September, we indicated that we would be launching NewsDay at the beginning of November, he said.
We continue with fine tuning our preparations while doing some fancy footwork behind the scenes. We are confident that we will win and that soon and very soon you will be able to see NewsDay on the streets."

Other prospective papers including The Daily News and Daily Evening Gazette are also waiting to get the green light from the the yet-to-be constituted ZMC, to launch their newspapers.