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Open Letter to Prof. Heneri Dzinotyiwei

After the government launched the Second Science, Technology and Innovation Policy (STI) with great fanfare which included speeches by the country’s top leaders President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, we thought ‘WOW!’ with such political backing this is surely a big deal and it would be a good thing to get our hands on the document and see where and how the government intends to support local technology initiatives.

Judging from what had been reported about the policy’s contents where were excited that there was a major ICT component in there as well. So naturally when we called the Ministry our expectation was to have the document emailed to us before we had even put the phone down. To our dismay the ministry said they did not have a soft copy of the policy so we had to go all the way to their offices in Harare’s CBD and visit the 20th floor of Livingstone House (they had to be on the very last floor too) to collect it.

This was around 3pm on Friday (15 June). Upon arriving at Livingstone house the concierge (I use the word rather liberally) at the entrance asked me to fill my details into their register which I duly did. He then requested for my ID, which I did not have on my person as I had left the office in haste and besides one is allowed to forget. But this was the wrong day to forget. The concierge with a sly grin on his face then pointed to a rather unartistic poster on the wall that said “NO I.D – NO ENTRY”, upon which (the smile still on his face) he informed me I could not get in.

This was a slight stumble as I was determined to get my hands on the document so I drove back to the office picked up my ID and emboldened marched back to the Ministry. Once on the 20th floor I waited for about 20 minutes before the secretary arrived. I told her that we had spoken on the phone earlier and she had instructed me to come and collect the document. She could not recall, but anyway I was here and needed assistance. Unfortunately for me the Permanent Secretary Professor F.P Gudyanga was in another meeting at the moment and he could not be disturbed. She could only get the document from him, no one else. She would check after his meeting and revert to me. At this point I realised that obtaining this document on this day was not going to happen. So I had to wait until Monday to have another shot.

Monday came and nothing happened. Tuesday came and I was rather irritated at calling the ministry, so I didn’t. I decided to give it one last try on Wednesday and eventually there was a response from the Permanent Secretary. My initial excitement that relief had finally arrived was quickly extinguished when I was told that I had to put my request in writing! That was the final straw…..

Surely if this policy is a public document why are public servants making it so difficult to get it. Firstly there is no soft copy, which at least should be available on the ministry website. Secondly why should only 1 individual and the Permanent Secretary too boot be the only person in the whole ministry who can dispense it. If I went to my bank and wanted a brochure of their products surely I wouldn’t have to wait for the CEO to hand it over to me. The other obvious fault with this is if I was in Beitbridge, Bushu or Murambinda the logistics of getting the document would become prohibitively expensive and time consuming.

This is not the first time we have experienced the run around in dealing with government ministries/ departments. Of note we have had a similar experience with the Ministry of Information Communication Technology, which featured an infinite loop of up and down movements between floors at their head office and an eventual referral to their other offices across town.

What is worrying is that these are the ministries that are pushing the use of technology, innovation and creativity. In a time when progressive governments are adopting open government data initiatives the state of affairs in our country is nothing short of depressing.

In conclusion this is an open request to the Minister of Science and Technology Prof. Heneri Dzinotyiwei and the Perm Sec Prof. F.P Gudyanga, that if they are genuinely serious about ensuring the noble intentions in the policy document (which since we haven’t seen we are assuming are there), please send the document to the Techzim email address which is found on the Contact Us page of this website. Thank you.

Photo credit: The Herald Newspaper


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21 thoughts on “Open Letter to Prof. Heneri Dzinotyiwei

  1. Thank you! government documents should be uploaded on their websites so that all and sundry can make use of them. Whats the purpose of a ministry being online when all you can find on the websites are biographies of ministers.

  2. Thanks Brian, I can feel the frustration from here. We have a real problem in Zim. Am not sure if anyone in those corridors really understands what they are doing. They are attempting to spearhead technology with an old mindset. They rather have grandiose launches on TV but deliver nothing. They want to be seen to be doing something. We have a big problem on our hands!

    1. Aurther I have an example of a government official requesting to be faxed a powerpoint printout because they did not have a email. And they had a brand spanking new fax machine!!!

  3. Anyone who has worked extensively with Government at any levels understands the red-tape and bureaucracy involved. Ask any friend who may be working for a UN agency or even, closer to home, the Computer Society. CSZ brings to the foe many issues and innovations that have to wait for the slow pace of Gvt decision making process(normal in all countries).

    It is almost typical of any Government structure. Mind that I am not supporting unnecessary delays. Sometimes there are procedures and protocols that have to be followed. Having worked largely in a corporate/commercial environment, I was totally shocked that people actually work like that.

    Over time I had more insight, and somethings made sense whereas others were unacceptable.

    My advice to you is to be patient. If there is due process that has to be followed as you interact with them, do so! It is too early for you to be frustrated and angry. Give them time and work well with them. They are a good ministry and are really open to ideas in their field of interest.

    1. ZveGoverment hazvina muridzi (Government issues propagate as if there is no one responsible)

  4. You are not brother. i am coming from mushroom science and i am equally disapointed and i dont take the goverment serious anymore and their respective departments. i also tried get the policy document. i went on their website which doesnt look like a ministry of science and technology site. tried leave a message it all failed.

    its sad its sad

  5. Talking and putting those words into action are two totally different things. Our ICT ministry and its website is a living example.

  6. “This is not the first time we have experienced the run around…”, I uttered an expletive so loud that the entire office froze in silence, after reading that line. The entire national government is an edifice of ineptitude and gross inefficiency. You experience run-arounds each time you approach a government office for the simplest of service. No need to labour that point its a fact of life in Zim.
    But in practice though, how does a national ICT document help me and any other developer, ICT professional in their daily work? Pretty-much zulch! As an IT professional cast your horizon well beyond national borders and you will enjoy genuine benefits in your personal life than dabbling in some useless document. And besides, the internet and the global data village it has spawned impact our lives on a daily basis far more than a daft national ICT policy document ever will.

    1. You know I get what you are saying and indeed I have been tempted to just shut up and forget about the government (and on many occasions I have) because for all intents and purposes the govt doesn’t care about me. But surely if we want to begin to see a more responsive and functional government we as citizens also have to do our part, the least of which is to communicate our thoughts to our leaders. Granted it may not change the status quo but you have to start somewhere and as one advert puts it “start with what you hope for”

  7. this is really upsetting. And then you’d want to blame wikileaks for wanting some of these common infos liberated. I attended the launch and the one thing that disturbed me the most was the absence of adolescent members of society what with the tech start ups picking up. the place was filled with school children reciting poems and traditional dancing. Wouldnt it have been better especially in ICT to have had TechZim there for example to champion the cause.


  8. Is that all? Live outside Harare and you experience 100 times that.

    In fact, had the launch happened in Mutare or Bulawayo you would have been told to go get it in Hartare.

    Why do you think many provinces want devolution? Devolution is a result of those experiences. Someone outside Harare expriencing that…I cant begin to tell you how it ends up a tribal issue most of the times with accusations of tribalism.

    1. I actually grew up in Bulawayo so I have a good appreciation of of what living outside Harare is all about. I think it’s a simple point about the accessibility useful government information (and services). I’ve simply used one example of many many frustrating experiences of dealing with government. My hope is that since this is the Ministry of Technology there would be a different appreciation of the problems we ALL face in accessing government services

    2. they don’t really ask you where you are coming from. I live in Harare and once went to the Min of ICT to have a questionnaire for a research i was carrying out filled in. The Director was not present and I was informed she was the only one who could fill the form in. (Whaat??????) Yes ma’am only the Director. I left my questionnaire with the office , got a landline number, made follow-ups almost on a daily basis for over a month, she was never in, no mobile contact numbers, no email

      So to me, whether one is in Harare, Binga or Nyamapanda, gvt is very slow and they will never catch up with their citizens at this rate.

  9. And with all that, the civil servant clamours for “salary increases that they deserve!” Just makes my blood boil!

  10. We need change of leadership from the village headman, sxul headmasters, provicial administrators, governors, ministers, perm secretaries…all the way to the top. Nyika haifambi tichidai so! if u visit other Southern Africa countries that’s when u realise we don’t have leaders…and I am not referring to politics here, real leaders see beyond politics. Our neighbors are busy putting in place plans, policies and infrastruture for the future and there we are frustrating the people we are supposed to serve!!! Just drive from Harare to Walvis bay and see the difference as you go. I personally hate the fact that gvt employees think they are doing us a favour in giving us Documents (esp IDs, Passports etc). They forget we pay taxes and they are mere employees of the state!

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