HARARE – There is a saddening trend that is developing in government departments where whole Cabinet ministers thrust in specific portfolios do not want to talk about their ministries.
It is surprising that ministers — some of whom traverse the length and breadth of the country campaigning for parliamentary seats — accept responsibility when they are not prepared for the accountability that comes with it.
Zimbabwe has ministers and other senior government officials who literally run away from media enquiries. Some request for written questions which they never respond to.
There are social service ministries like that of Local Government where the whole hierarchy from the minister, deputy through to permanent secretary, seems to routinely connive to duck public enquiries. It is important that these key government departments give official positions on developments related to their ministries other than leave the public who — without official comments on developments in the ministries — are forced to speculate.
They are not, however, the only ones in this transgression. It appears to be the modus operandi of the bulk of ministries and government departments in Zimbabwe. One thing they do not realise is that telling the nation what is going on — no matter how bad — is better than forcing people to be shocked when key developments are announced when they would have been in the public domain for long. There is entirely no reason why government ministers and other public servants would want to mystify — to the extent of personalising — information that should be placed in the public domain.
Elsewhere in the world, government ministries and other State departments have websites — which are constantly updated — from which the public, media included, can
access official comment on a number of issues.
In South Africa for instance, government departments which include the Department of International Relations and Cooperation, the South Africa Police Service, department of Home Affairs among several others have up-to-date websites. In comparison, websites for equivalent Zimbabwean departments are either inaccessible or have outdated information on display.
Ministers are public servants. The majority of them are appointed on the grounds that they would have been elected into Parliament, which makes them accountable to the people. Simple management theory says that responsibility should go with accountability. You cannot be given responsibility while at the same time not being accountable.
There simply has to be a change of mentality on the part of government ministers and other public servants on information dissemination.