EASTERN NEWS | Govt to launch village ICT centres

Govt to launch village ICT centres

MUTARE - Government plans to set up more community information centres (CICs), particularly in rural Manicaland, with at least 40 containerised ones on the cards, as part of efforts to provide e-government services.

Most of the centres will be at post offices.

Speaking on the side-lines of a tour of CICs in Mutare this week, Information Communication Technology minister Supa Mandiwanzira said the current economic hardships prevented many people from owning computers and smart phones, which enable them to access Internet.

“Government is hoping to equalise access to information super highway through the centres as a first step,” he said.

“Ultimately, we want to be able to deliver e-government services through CICs. People must be able to go to a village CICs to apply for a passport,” Mandiwanzira said, adding; “you don’t have to go to Harare or big cities like Mutare to do that”.

“To renew a birth certificate that has been lost and other government services, you should be able to get them at CICs. That is the ultimate objective of government,” he said.

He said the CICs for villages would be housed in containers.

He said “the containers have already been designed to carry desks and computers”.

“It’s simply lifted and stationed in a community. We think that’s a faster way of developing the CICs . . . it’s a quick delivery service.”

Mandiwanzira said government would also not need to build big and costly infrastructure where the community is a village, and instead make do with smaller infrastructure.

He said government was, however, initially facilitating every community’s access to information communication technology to be able to achieve its final objective.

“We acknowledge that not everybody in our community at this point in time can afford to have a computer in their house or even to have Internet access, therefore it is imperative upon government that we must build infrastructure within communities which provide access.

“So, the CICs are meant to be the platform where we equalise the access to the information superhighway for all our communities in the country.

“If you cannot afford, you must be able to get to the nearest community centre where you can access Internet, computers, printing services, faxing services and, of course, computers for innovation for those who are interested in that specific area.”

He said as government, they were being vindicated by the US government’s moves to also nationalise 5G technology as a close mirror to their efforts in ensuring that there is adequate information technology across the country.

“I’m fascinated that the USA, the government of President (Donald) Trump is actually looking at nationalising the 5G technology.

“It is looking at the possibility of building government-owned infrastructure network around the 5G which companies . . . will just go and use the infrastructure built by government.

“I think that must tell you how they are beginning to view the ICT and telecommunications space and this is the kind of thinking we have been telling you about and when have other countries beginning to look at it the same way I think you are vindicated that the direction we are taking as a country is what other governments are looking at.”

Home-seekers cry foul over Rusape council

RUSAPE - Home-seekers who bought stands in Ridgemond Park are crying foul over Rusape Town Council’s delays in granting them approval to start making developments on their properties.

Ridgemond Park land developer Norman Sachikonye said he was dismayed by the delays, as they had completed all the necessary paperwork despite holding a series of meetings with the local authority over the matter.

He said “next to Ridgemond there is Magamba Medium Density Suburb in Rusape which was developed by Rusape Town Council. Magamba has 1 800 stands and residents; they don’t have water and sewer reticulation system”.

“I have already connected water pipes and finished laying the sewer pipes, which can and will be connected to capacitate the 1 800 Magamba residents, but Rusape Town Council is failing to appreciate our service.”

About 131 home-seekers have been approved by the council since 2015 and they have finished building, but 610 are however, still waiting for the approvals, including 100 for the low density suburb.

“As land developers we have had several meetings with the council and paid their dues in full, letters were written but no action has been taken.”

The land was previously subject to a wrangle with council, which Sachikonye won at the High Court.

He said he was being pestered by over 250 home seekers who had since settled their payments and were ready to take up their land.

“So far, 252 home-seekers have finished paying for their residential stands and are calling me day and night seeking clarity on the matter. I would like to make this record straight, as land developers we don’t give permission to home seekers to build, it is council’s duty.”

“In my opinion, Rusape Town Council is losing a lot of money as these people would have been paying rates, planning bills and other utility bills to the council,” said Sachikonye.

Rusape town secretary Solomon Gabaza referred questions to council’s chairperson.

The chairperson had not responded to texted questions by time of going to print.


Outrage as botanical garden is ‘invaded’

MUTARE - Hospitality industry players and residents have expressed outrage over the allocation of stands in a botanical garden in Chimanimani, describing the move as a direct assault of the town’s tourism sector.

With a unique plant species and rare birdlife, the garden attracted scores of tourists to the mountainous area.

Chimanimani’s economy is hinged on tourism, attracting the second most visits after Victoria Falls in 1999, before the entire tourism sector slumped.

It also had a thriving timber industry which, interestingly, also suffered at the expense of haphazard human settlements.

Chimanimani Tourist Association (CTA) has since engaged the minister of State for Provincial Affairs for Manicaland, Monica Mutsvangwa, who pledged to engage the local authority to save the arboretum.

In a January 17, 2018 letter, the CTA implored the minister to order council to stop further allocation of stands in the park and for those allocated to stop developments, pending an investigation into the issue.

“Place a moratorium on further allocation of stands within our unique arboretum. Give written notice to those who were allocated stands inside this park that they are to cease development pending an investigation,” CTA wrote.

CTA vice chairperson Collen Sibanda said they were optimistic that the local authority will reconsider the move.

“The minister has pledged to assist on the matter and we are very optimistic,” Sibanda said.

He said there should be no pressure to parcel out land in the park as the town still has acres of unoccupied space within and around.

“We still have a lot of land for settlement and this arboretum could surely be spared, considering its huge potential in enhancing the town’s tourism package,” Sibanda said.

Apart from tourism, he said the garden was also good for the locals.

“The garden was accessible to the public and we expected it to be made an eco-park with benches and Wi-Fi for Internet connectivity,” Sibanda said.

After visiting the area, Eastern News found buildings at various stages of construction, while rare trees such as the Red Mahogany were already chopped down.

“We really had a good chance of having our own big tree with that, and in creating a beautiful park,” Sibanda said.

Hotelier Jane High said the park could have been leveraged to attract birders as Chimanimani is home to rare birds that include the endangered Blue swallow, Bronze sunbird, Gurneys sugarbird, Miombo tit, Mashona hyliota and Miombo rock thrush.

High said she was outraged by the decision and hoped that the park could still be saved.

“The local residents association which was also supporting the push to have the park spared was recently ordered to stop operations until they write a memorandum of understanding with the District Administrator’s office which undermined the voice of the community on the issue,” High said.

Efforts to get comment from the local authority were unsuccessful by the time of going to press.


Minister has no govt-issued laptop’

MUTARE - As government enjoys publicity from donating information communication technology (ICT) gadgets, it has emerged that Manicaland’s minister of State for Provincial Affairs Monica Mutsvangwa has no government-issued laptop.

This was revealed by Manicaland provincial administrator Edgar Seenza while he thanked Postal and Telecommunication Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) for donating a high-end laptop during the launch of the National Frequency Allocation Plan in Mutare on Tuesday.

“I know she (Mutsvangwa) has been talking of a need for a laptop and I don’t know if this (the donated laptop) is from her request or you just gave her,” Seenza said to the surprise of many.

This comes as an embarrassment in this era of ICTs, and considering a laptop has become a “must-have” gadget, which ensures efficient delivery of duty, for a person of Mutsvangwa’s calibre.

However, many government ministries and departments are generally not well-resourced in ICT.

This comes against the impression that most government officials under former president Robert Mugabe were technophobic and reluctant to embrace modern technological trends in order to keep abreast with the demands of their work.

This also goes to MPs, most of whom also do not have computers or the requisite knowledge of operating more efficient systems that make work easier and efficient.


Renewed hope for Mutare sculptors

MUTARE - Street side Shona stone sculptors along Beira Road in Zimbabwe’s eastern border city of Mutare are working with renewed vigour — with hope that their dying art is on the rebound.

The recent influx of tourists to the western tip of the country — Victoria Falls — was felt this side as curio shops and fellow artists failed to meet a spike in demand, forcing them to reach out to the Mutare sculptors.

“There is real promise. If you see shops in Victoria Falls and Harare coming to us here for artefacts, it means we are getting back into business,” said Phineas Chidzeya, as he put final touches to sculpted portrait.

He is just one of a handful of artists who have clung onto the art genre over the past years, which many of his colleagues and contemporaries abandoned due to poor sales.

A slump in tourist visits in the wake of the country’s violent ejection of white commercial farmers had pulled the rug from under the art’s commercial viability.

Tourists and exporters had been driving the industry since its emergence, as it continues to attract locals, who are too superstitious to appreciate the art.

And without a market, the unique art genre was on its death bed, as many of its practitioners abandoned the trade.

Even Chidzeya was pushed to the edge.

Staying in Chigodora — about 30km out of the city, in the harsh Vumba mountain range terrain, and unable to raise two dollars he would need to go home and return to work the next day, Chidzeya would sleep in the open at a nearby service station.

“I was basically destitute by then. It was bad. Some sculptors would supplement their income by washing the heavy vehicle trucks that were then only beginning to park here,” Chidzeya reminiscences.

With the establishment of a fully-fledged road port, there is however, now a dedicated troop of haulage truck cleaners and they are now getting business from the international truck drivers.

“They have now been offering us good business and some have been asking us to carve their portraits for between $80 and $150,” Chidzeya says, as he polishes one almost complete black serpentine piece that he said took him a good three weeks to work on.

Chidzeya said many of his colleagues had long quit the trade and he has only been hanging on because he has no options.

“I was a gardener before I learnt sculpturing so I’ve had worse times than what I went through as an artist, but I’ve to admit that if it was not because of a tough background and difficult upbringing I would have quit as well,” he says.

But he now walks with a bounce and his eyes glint with hope as interest comes back to their trade.

Isaac Tego, who has braved the barren years together with Chidzeya at the Beira Road open art gallery, shares the same optimism.

“There is a container of sculpts that was shipped out to Beira this week and that is a very positive development. It probably means some people are reconnecting with the European market that used to sustain the industry,” Tego suggested.

Without that market, Shona stone sculpture was on its death bed, even before completing half a century in commercial existence.

With very few, if any, individual sculptors working in stone in the first half of the 20th century, Shona stone sculpture is a young contemporary art form.

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