Mutare commissions SMS platform for residents

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MUTARE City Council has commissioned a social media platform to facilitate communication between the residents and city fathers in a grand plan aimed at improving service delivery.

BY KENNETH NYANGANI

Under the programme, the council has availed an SMS hotline number 34452 where residents would be expected to raise their complaints, compliments and suggestions for only 10 cents.

The project is being funded by the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and Peace-Building and Capacity Development Foundation to improve communication among residents and city fathers.

Speaking at the launch on Tuesday, Mutare mayor Tatenda Nhamarare said the programme was driven by the motive of opening democratic space for residents’ participation on issues of local governance.

“I am particularly mindful of the problems and constraints being faced by local authorities in Zimbabwe including challenges, chief among them financial constraints as a result of the economic downturn which has seen companies closing shop,” Nhamarare said.

“City of Mutare appreciates that there is a need to democratise our governance systems to enhance bottom-up, accountable and gender-sensitive decision-making processes in planning, financial management, procurement, monitoring, and evaluation to foster democratic practice and community ownership.”

Nhamarare added that the council welcomed the Mutare City Dialogue and Technology for Accountability (M-DATA) project in 2013 when IRC presented the proposal.

“Council welcomed the M-DATA with both hands two years back when (IRC) approached us, the project was aimed at building capacity of council for more efficient delivery through constructive dialogue, hence the establishment of the SMS hotline as we expect to improve communication with residents and other stakeholders”.

Peace-Building and Capacity Development Foundation executive director Alexius Manyanda, who was represented by field officer Lloyd Chisese, said the SMS platform would bridge the existing gulf between residents and the local authority.

The SMS hotline will link residents to all six departments of the city council through messages sent via Econet and NetOne initially while other service providers would be incorporated later.

The message will be sent in a format which will denote a prefix for the department in question followed by the complaint or inquiry from residents.

The SMS will be electronically channelled to specific departments through a reference number installed in the system.
Once the message has been received, there is a stipulated window period for the matter to be addressed before it is automatically taken to the next level. There are five levels which end at the highest office of the town clerk.

IRC was represented by its country director Paolo Cernuschi.