Zvamaida Murwira THE INTERVIEW
Zimbabwe has a new Registrar-General. Mr Clemence Masango (CM) was two weeks ago appointed to the post previously held by the long-serving Mr Tobaiwa Mudede. Mr Masango (CM)has a job at his hands and in this sit-down with our Senior Reporter Zvamaida Murwira (ZM) earlier in the week, he outlined his vision for the crucial office.
ZM: What is your vision as you walk into the department?
CM: The starting point is to get to know how things are being done currently and why they are being done or happening the way they are so that from an informed point of view I will be able to identify the gaps that need correction, improvement ,modernisation and innovation
ZM: Given that you are someone who was working in the same Ministry of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage, what solutions do you have for problems that have dogged the department.
CM: What I seek to do is to deal with the issue of queues which has been a perennial issue and source of complaints. That is what I need to address .We are living in an era of ICT where services are automated or e-enabled. Embracing and enhancing computerisation is my priority number one in order to modernise and increase efficiency and fight corruption and make our services affordable and easy to access. For example, there is no reason why people should queue just to get application forms. Why should application forms not be uploaded, made available on line so that people do application on line and they are called for necessary interviews. If for example foreigners in immigration apply for a visa, they get it online, without contact with an officer and they pay the visa fee online, why should we make these services unavailable to our people?
ZM: What about touts milling around the RG’s offices and underhand dealings between those touts, clients and staff from RG’s office.
CM: Once we computerise in the form and manner that I have in mind, this will address the whole issue of touts claiming that they can secure a position for them in the line or are connected to an officer therefore they will ensure easy issuance of a certain document. That will also deal with issues of corruption. Once we minimise contact between an officer and clients, we will be able to curb corruption. There will be no room for officers asking for lunch and gifts.
ZM: What about the timeous issuance of passports?
CM: I want to understand why we cannot issue passports as and when required. There are unending long queues of passports every day. There are reports that a limited number of application forms are issued per day regardless of the number of people who need passports. Is it a question of more people wanting to go out, is it because of limited number of staff who can attend to the clients or there is no stationery or is it the issue of foreign currency and the ability and capacity to print that makes the department lag behind?
ZM: What if it is because of financial resources?
CM: If it is a question of resources, then authorities should be approached to help improve the situation because we cannot let our people suffer. There are reports that some are sleeping in the queue or have to wake up very early to queue. Some are even paying touts to secure a position in the queue. That defeats the whole purpose of ease of doing business.
ZM: There is also an issue of perception, that the department is politicised probably arising from its previous duties which were election-related. What are you going to do to clear that mindset where people view it with political lenses instead of seeing it as a professional and Government entity?
CM: I don’t know why people thought the department was politicised. If it was because the department was handling elections that is now the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), independent and separate from the department. The department no longer handles election matters.
ZM: There is the issue of decentralisation on passports or any other documents, where people come from faraway places to get documents considering the attendant financial implications of travelling.
CM: I am aware that there is only one passport production centre in Harare, but receiving and processing centres are in all provinces. So, to some extent, there is already decentralisation. But I am aware that people believe all things happen in Harare and they have no confidence in submitting applications in their province of residence. This may be the reason why the Harare office is always congested. So the solution is to make provincial reception and processing centres efficient and responsive to people’s expectations. There must be a mechanism to ensure that applications are received at provinces, are processed and transmitted to the production centres and those passports that are produced and available should be dispatched without delay.
Another way of assuring clients that something is being done is to keep them informed of every stage that their applications would be going through. We can use SMS or e-mail to acknowledge receipt of an application as a first point. Then as soon as the process is completed then the passport goes to production, tell the client what is happening and when next they can expect to hear from the department and when they can expect to see the end product of their application. And when the passport or ID is ready, a notification should be sent as well so that our clients save costs by coming only to be told that it’s not ready for collection. This is the advantage and convenience of ICT that we should harness to improve efficiency.
ZM: To what extent would your office be accessible to clients?
CM: I promise an open-door policy. I will be accessible, listening, transparent and very responsive. All complaints against the department and members of staff will be dealt with by my office directly. I intend to introduce a hotline, to receive complaints and any feedback. In the long-term, the department should have a call centre. This is a department which is in almost every part of our country and dealing with matters that affect our people right from solemnisation of marriages, deaths, births, national registration and even exhumations of bodies. We deal with matters affecting human lives from cradle, to the grave and out of the grave again.
ZM: How are you going to make accessibility of documents easier where there is either a single parent or if a person is orphaned?
CM: Before I forget, there is an issue of Zimbabweans who are living outside Zimbabwe who have acquired foreign citizenships and they have been complaining that it is very difficult to get the passport when they want. On that one, I will first of all establish whether there is such a concern and why? The Constitution is very clear, the guiding legal instrument is always our Constitution and anyone fitting within the parameters of the Constitution should not have a problem.
You can get your passport or any other national document of identity that you require. Now on birth certificates, just like passports, I need time to establish the nature of the concern but what I know is, even a single parent should be allowed to have their child registered in their own name whether male or female. Where there are no parents, there must be somebody in the family or community who can vouch for a child and help officials to make a determination and have that child registered even in the absence of parents. There must be somebody, relatives or community leaders.
ZM: But there are cases where a birth record will not be available, like when children are born in homes. How will those people get assistance?
CM: The question of proof of birth by way of a hospital birth confirmation applies only in respect of those who were born in a hospital. When someone is born at home, there is a provision for community midwives and also community leaders who can send in a witness to the Government.