Harare- United States Ambassador Charles Ray officially handed over audio and other digital equipment to the Parliament of Zimbabwe on Wednesday as part of an ongoing effort to boost the capacity of parliamentarians and promote good governance.
“I am proud to join Zimbabwe’s legislative leaders to let the voices of the representatives of the people of Zimbabwe be heard throughout these chambers and across the land. The system unveiled today will help shed light and transparency on the actions of parliament and parliamentarians,” said the U.S. Ambassador at a function attended by legislators, diplomats and senior government officials including the Prime Minister, Morgan Tsvangirai.
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID), working with the Southern Africa Parliamentary Support Trust (SAPST), funded the purchase and installation of the equipment to enhance the documentation and archiving of parliamentary debates and other proceedings in the august house. The state of the art digital equipment will enable Parliament to improve its ability to make official proceedings accessible to the media and public.
The equipment included 211 microphones, loudspeakers and headphones in both the Senate and the House of Assembly, microphones and servers in the six committee rooms, recording software, PC’s and monitors for use by Hansard reporters.
“Parliament will face a busy and full agenda when it sits next. I am humbled to help inaugurate this small, yet important, contribution from the American people which I hope will make your voices accessible throughout the land and into history for the difficult, yet vital, decisions and actions you take on behalf of the people of this great country,” said Ambassador Ray who was accompanied by the USAID Mission Director, Karen Freeman, and senior Embassy officials.
Parliamentarians welcomed the new state of the art equipment installation, which was done by South African company Questek Advanced Technologies (Pty) Ltd. Hon. Lovemore Moyo, Speaker of Parliament, described the occasion as a “milestone achievement for the seventh Parliament of Zimbabwe.”
“It is gratifying to see that the work carried out over the last year has resulted in improvement in efficiency, transparency and effectiveness in our parliamentary business. One can now follow parliamentary proceedings in both chambers and six committee rooms,” said Moyo.
Speaking the same occasion, Prime Minister Tsvangirai, who is the leader of government business in Parliament, called on development partners to invest more in strengthening Zimbabwe’s democratic institutions.
“I wish to call upon all development partners to continue supporting and strengthening our public institutions which have suffered decline for so long. As Zimbabweans, we are grateful for this support,” said the Prime Minister. He noted that the country has “great potential as a nation to serve the people.”
“Once our public institutions are fully functional, we will definitely be able to deliver real change to the people of Zimbabwe,” said the Prime Minister.
With the new technology, Hansard reporters only come into the Houses to make note of interjections and the rest will be captured by the recording software. Audio output from the two Houses will now be captured on a dedicated server and can be played back, paused, and re-wound.
This improvement will enable Parliament to compile a digital archive of all its proceedings in the respective Houses, as well as in the Committee Rooms. In addition, it will now be possible for journalists to obtain audio recordings of any sitting of Parliament and Committee proceedings.
USAID Mission Director Karen Freeman noted that her organisation, which is also supporting the Parliament-led Constitution making process through the United Nations Development Program, had since 2001 worked with Parliament to strengthen its procedures and processes through technical assistance on the legislative process.
“We believe that this audio equipment will foster the debate and discussion needed to come to a consensus on what should be incorporated into the new constitution and how, later on, that language should be upheld in law,” said the USAID mission director.
In an interview, Moyo said Parliament had completed training of staff in the use of the new equipment and will assist members to get acquainted with the new equipment on their return from the constitution making process.
“We will work with all legislators to help them appreciate the new technology, and improve the quality of their contributions,” said the Speaker.
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