'Harare City Council has failed residents'

HARARE - Communities are not being run smoothly in Harare due to the dismal failure by council to service the people, Precious Shumba, the Harare Residents Trust Coordinator has said.

“The City of Harare has dismally failed to address critical service delivery issues, namely the provision of adequate and quality water to the citizenry, refuse collection, representative democracy where residents are treated as key stakeholders, and the provision of other essential services like road maintenance and upgrading, street lighting, maintenance and upgrading of municipal cemeteries, restructuring the council management structures to save money, and critically — policy formulation, enactment of regulations and by-laws to reflect the current economic, social, cultural and political situation within communities,” said Shumba.

Shumba said the power struggles among councillors was retrogressive.

“The constant power struggles among councillors and council officials on the other hand, and the struggles that exist between the minister of Local Government, Rural and Urban Development and the elected councillors have a significant negative impact on service provision, leaving residents exposed to the excesses of senior council management’s executive decisions, without the intervention of the electorate’s representatives — the elected councillors,” he said.

City of Harare’s failures cannot be looked at in isolation, said Shumba.

“While it is all good to point out the supposed weaknesses and failures of the City of Harare, it is prudent to analyse service provision by local authorities in the context of the structure of local governance in Zimbabwe where the Cabinet sits at the top, under President Robert Mugabe, with minister Ignatius Chombo being the central government eye and his deputy is powerless, if not insignificant in transforming how services are rendered and how local authorities are administered in terms of available legislation.

“These challenges in the local government sector cannot be addressed in isolation from the national governance structure, where there are numerous pieces of legislation governing local authorities, bestowing executive authority in the minister of Local Government, Rural and Urban Development, and town secretaries and town clerks, with mayors and councillors being figureheads, just in existence to provide a semblance of representative democracy.

“In fact most councillors have found out they are powerless and ineffectual, leaving most of them with no other option than to concentrate on wealth accumulation, corruption, and engaging in hopeless and wasteful power struggles.

“In all this, residents are at the mercy of the local authorities who make budgets without enforceable conditions to consult residents and other stakeholders,” he said.

Shumba added: “All local government legislation have to be harmonised to harness and balance the aspirations and interests of residents, local authorities and central government, without disempowering the citizenry, as is the current set up where residents are simply there to pay for services, whether rendered or not rendered.

“Structures of local authorities have to be decentralised to ensure that communities directly benefit from their revenues, and that decision-making is a responsibility of a collection of stakeholders rather than being centralised in the office of town clerks and the minister of local government.

“Let residents have a significant voice on how their resources and allocated and distributed, and how service delivery priorities are decided.” - Margaret Chinowaita, Community Affairs Editor

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