By Loreen Tadzingwa
Legislators through their representative function are expected among other things to keep in touch with people in their constituencies through feedback and consultation meetings as well as through other means.
Feedback meetings are important in that they afford the legislator an opportunity to inform his or her constituency about debates and issues being tackled in Parliament while consultations are the vehicle through which the constituency gets to inform their legislator about challenges in the constituency.
Crafty legislators have taken advantage of such social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Whatsapp to disburse information as well as get feedback from people owing to challenges that make physical meetings expensive and difficult to hold.
One of the legislators who is using social media to disburse information is Harare North legislator Norman Markham.
Honourable Markham although he is using social media he has also gone a step further by introducing a hard copy newsletter to cater for the unconnected people in his constituency.
However, despite these initiatives, some people in Harare North Constituency (Hatcliffe Consortium) still claim that they are not getting feedback from their legislator, are not able to transmit their challenges to him as well as even getting constituency meeting notifications.
“Here in Consortium, we do not even know how social media works and even if a few do we do not even afford it at all (mobile data is expensive these days).
“What this simply means is that we do not get important
information that he might be posting on social media pages” said Tinashe Manyika.
Despite these complaints by people in his constituency, Honourable Markham, however, believes his communication strategy is working and reaching the intended beneficiaries adding that he is always around in the constituency, meeting with people and holding meetings adding that he is also aware of the challenges in the area.
“I get to know the complains that the people will be having because I am always around, I have been living in the constituency since I came back from Malawi in 1993 and I always make sure that my people are updated on all social media platforms (Whatsapp, Facebook and Twitter).
“However, in areas like Consortium we write newsletters for them in both English and Shona and I also make use of meetings every month.
“For example last month I was in Hatcliffe 1and this month I will have one meeting in Consortium and also hold meetings with the Borrowdale Brooke Home Owners Association every month,” he said.
Honourable Markham added that if people are not able to get in touch with him personally, they “can also go through the councillor or the district officer so that they get all to me”.
One of the challenges that have been identified as preventing legislators from effectively discharging their duties is lack of Constituency Information Centres which were used as offices for the constituency and people would go there with their issues.
However, the offices were disbanded at the end of the inclusive government in 2013 and since then government through the Ministry of Finance has been saying it does not have adequate resources in its coffers to finance the offices.
The use of social media which was effectively pioneered by former Harare West legislator Jessie Majome is becoming a bit of a challenge due to the current economic situation in the country where people are having to choose between buying roller meal and data to access constituency information.
For example, a subsidised 10 kilograms of roller meal cost between ZW$50 and ZW$57 and a 2-litre bottle of cooking oil costs about ZW$60 in supermarkets around town while the revised cost of data from Econet Wireless Zimbabwe is ZW$65 for a gigabyte.