By Clive Tinashe Mapuranga
Media practitioners and residents of Chitungwiza are being denied access to full council meetings and minutes which are charged an exorbitant price of US $10 a copy which in most cases is less than 15 pages.
This is in contravention of the access to information right that is enshrined in Section (62) of the Constitution of the Republic of Zimbabwe.
In Chitungwiza, Municipal information and dealings are a closely guarded secret that is not accessible to residents despite being the owners of the Municipality and everything that is called Chitungwiza.
Residents and media personalities from Chitungwiza have been at loggerheads with the Municipal fighting to be allowed access into the full council meetings and accessing the minutes.
Chitungwiza Municipality is using provisions of the Urban Councils Act, which provide for council minutes to be sold at a prescribed fee which is against the provisions of Section 62 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe.
Mr Shayanowako ,Coordinator of Chitungwiza Community Development Network(CCDN) a community based organisation which advocates for rights and governance issues reacted by saying US $10 is exorbitant when printing and photocopying costs 10 cents a page or US$1 for 40-50 copies.
“$10 for what when printing cost 10 cents per page. We must get them for free,” said Shayanowako.
“We should be given for free since we are the residents of this town and printing cheap ,” continued Shayanowako.
Mr Albert Masaka a concerned professional journalist said the Municipality is violating the provisions of the Constitution.
“The Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No.20) Act 2013 guarantees any citizen or permanent resident of Zimbabwe the right of access to any information held by the State or by an agency of government at every level, in so far as the information is required in the interests of public accountability and also for the exercise or protection of a right. The constitution is the supreme law of the land and people should abide by it,” said Masaka.
Other residents, activists and civil society activists argue that if $10 is for printing then they can send us soft copies which are easy to share considering the developments in the digital technology revolution.
“If council says ten dollars is for printing of minutes, I suggest they give us the minutes as soft copy. We can delegate one resident to collect minutes from council using a flash drive and she/he will share them online. Even the council itself may upload it on the website and since everyone is connected to digital platforms we will be able to see them at less than 10 cents,” said Admire Mutize a resident of Zengeza 3.