By Nobukhosi Ndlovu
IN an age when cyberspace has taken over communication, most institutions, organisations and even political parties have resorted to using the Intern
et as a mode of communication to reach a wider audience.
Zanu PF, which launched its official website — www.zanupfpub.co.zw —in 2002 has failed to take advantage of this useful medium.
The party last updated its web page on November 7 2005 just before the senate election. As if stuck in a time warp, the site currently shows news stories from 2002 and debates on the 2003 national budget.
Likewise, the list of cabinet ministers has not been updated. The vice-president of Zimbabwe is still given as Simon Muzenda who died three years ago and the deputy Secretary for Information and Publicity is still Jonathan Moyo although he left Zanu PF before the March 2005 parliamentary election.
President Robert Mugabe’s last address on the website is from a speech given at the burial of Bernard Chidzero at the National Heroes’ Acre on August 12 2002.
At the launch of the website, the party said it aimed to inform individuals of events in the nation and the party, as well as giving historical background on its formation.
By contrast, South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) appears to be using this tool of communication to best advantage.
The ANC’s official website, www.anc.org.za, includes a letter from President Thabo Mbeki based on the soccer World Cup set to take place in South Africa in 2010, as well as access to previous documents and publications about the party.
The website also offers news items, links to other related websites, opportunities to join the party or subscribe to mailing lists and mobile news alerts.
In the same way the MDC website, www.mdczimbabwe.org, provides up-to-date information on the events taking place within the party, offering forums for people to air their views and comments.
Why then is Zanu PF failing to raise its standards by making the most of this cyberspace tool?
People are not able to access the information they need online from the ruling party and therefore resort to spending time on other websites. Discussions in chat rooms on the Internet have also shown that people are noticing the need for improvement of the website’s presentation and content.
After the closure of the party’s newspaper, The Voice, in February this year it would be expected that there would be an immediate need to revamp the official website.
Gadzira Chirumanzu, assistant director in the Zanu PF Department of Information and Publicity, said they were currently working on a new detailed website to replace the existing one.
It is not only the Zanu PF website that requires an urgent makeover and an injection of life but also the official government website, http://www.gta.gov.zw, the Parliament of Zimbabwe website, www.parlzim.gov.zw, the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority website, www.zimbabwetourism.co.zw, and the Air Zimbabwe website, www.airzimbabwe.aero.
The Zimbabwe government website may have a few pictures to brighten it up but it offers no links and appears to be under construction even though it says it was last revised in June.
President Mugabe has donated computers to schools in a nationwide campaign to thrust a large number of people into the information age. Parliament, with the help of the United Nations Development Programme is set to establish 120 constituency information centres for the benefit of the electorate. The failure to update its website is a serious indictment on parliament’s commitment to greater use of information technology.
Once again by contrast the South African government website, www.gov.za, offers current information on events within South Africa as well as background information on the government and other services.
The Parliament of Zimbabwe website also shows no signs of development as it gives information on the pre-budget seminar for 2004 under the “What’s new” section and a diary of forthcoming events for September 2004. The links to the guest book, parliamentary polls and government of Zimbabwe likewise do not work.
As expected with most websites promoting a country, tourists would expect to be dazzled by bright images of the country they are planning to visit. Unfortunately, the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority website does not exhibit these kinds of images or any other intriguing features. It offers information in preparation for the Travel Expo 2005 instead.
The Air Zimbabwe website also needs updating.
Unlike other airline websites Air Zimbabwe’s website does not offer the luxury of online bookings, check-in or lost-baggage traces. Similarly some of the links do not open, particularly the one for the airline’s schedules.
There is therefore a concern with Zimbabwe’s inability to join the rest of the world in developing through cyberspace. This mode of communication should be making
life simpler for consumers of goods and services but it appears to be far from being a priority.
Perhaps there is still a need for government departments and parastatals to learn more about technology in order to apply it to every day life, following trends that have already been set across cyberspace.
* Nobukhosi is a Rhodes student who was on a week-long attachment at the Zimbabwe Independent.