Kennedy Chokuda

Parliament is set to go virtual with preparations at an advanced stage focusing on security of the links being a prime requirement.

People have been asking why legislators, who received tablets after a hard fight, have not been able to put them to good use through conducting Parliament business remotely.

Parliament met last week to extend its adjournment due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

Clerk of Parliament Mr Kennedy Chokuda told The Herald there were preliminary requirements that had to be satisfied.

“I am sure you can appreciate that when this lockdown came, no one was prepared for it. Parliamentarians have the hardware in tablets, but there was need to deal with the software to be able to convene virtually,” Mr Chokuda said.

Other countries have shown that there is a problem with open access platforms being used for parliamentary business.

“We want to ensure that the meetings are secure. In South Africa, their parliament held a few committee meetings recently and one of those was hacked by someone who posted nude images,” said Chokuda.

“We have purchased modems, which will be used by the legislators to connect their gadgets for online meetings.

“What is left is to distribute them to legislators in their constituencies. I can assure you that we will have virtual sittings soon.”

Chokuda could not be drawn to give a definite date of commencement.

Asked on whether MDC-Alliance legislators, who were withdrawn by their leadership from Parliament are included in the planning, Chokuda said: “We have not received any formal communication to that effect. So, until we receive something in writing, we are working with the assumption that they are still part of Parliament.”

Meanwhile, City of Harare said it had not thought of holding virtual full council meetings, but will consider doing so in the near future.

“We have only done virtual meetings for directors of departments. For councillors we had not yet thought that far, but it is a good proposition. I think going forward we need to put systems in place to ensure that we resume full council meetings,” Harare town clerk Eng Hosea Chisango said.

Like parliamentarians, councillors also lobbied for iPads, which council bought for $375 000.

“We bought iPads for councillors, so it should not be difficult to get them to participate in full council meetings.

“What is only needed is internet provision for them and then they are ready to go.

“Since Covid-19 broke out, we have stopped sending them hard copies of documents.

“We are now sending soft copies,” said Eng Chisango.

Eng Chisango said by June, he expects full council meetings to be sitting online, but committees may have to meet physically as their few numbers allow social distancing.

Taxpayers and ratepayers have been asking why both Parliament and council are failing to migrate their business to the internet. – Herald