Harare's 2025 vision now far-fetched fantasy

HARARE - Harare has failed spectacularly in its attempt to create a world-class city by 2025 due to a widening budget deficit, bankruptcy and bureaucracy, the City’s Mayor Bernard Manyenyeni said yesterday.

In his second State-of-the-City Address at Town House, Manyenyeni blamed government interference for making the masterplan a fantasy.

“The turnaround of the city’s fortune requires almost 10 years of doing the right things, biting bullets and making tough decisions most certainly in a well-run country.

“Under current conditions, the city will get worse before it gets better,” Manyenyeni said in his 11 000 word speech.

“In my own mind, I have since decommissioned the 2025 timeline but I have not abandoned the hope and desire for the world-class goal.”

Amid complaints over the city’s non trafficable roads, unaffordable housing, erratic availability of water, Manyenyeni had in his inaugural State-of-the-City Address, last year, shared the hope that his administration could leave council and the City better than they found it.

“ . . .  To continue telling stakeholders that Harare will be a world-class city by 2025 is no longer a projection but outright propaganda.”

Harare City Council (HCC) is currently embroiled in a raging legal dispute over the new town clerk James Mushore “who was hounded out of office”.

“ . . . a year later, we are caught in legal battles on multiple fronts,” Manyenyeni said.

“Let me reiterate that the position of town clerk of Harare by function and scope is equivalent to the deputy Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet.

“For Harare the template is for a top professional with global experience and in . . . Mushore we had secured the right person and this aspect is not contested even by those challenging his appointment. Like all of you, I yearn for finality — but we cannot influence court processes much, in the interim.”

The appointment of the town clerk caused a major storm at Town House which saw Manyenyeni spend weeks on suspension and two days in police custody.

“(This came) as two ministers and some arms of the State took turns to sodomise the office, style and person of the Mayor,” Manyenyeni said.

HCC’s main concerns for residents are roads, water and litter.

“We have very little space to de-couple Harare from both country and the government.  We are fully embedded. We are, quite sadly, going to follow the fortunes of the bigger picture,” Manyenyeni said.

He went on to bemoan that devolution of power remained a pipe dream, insisting “almost all our major problems are directly linked to the ministry which should be taking us forward”.

Manyenyeni bemoaned political interference.

“We cannot freely employ the best people; we cannot exercise authority over those who we are supposed to lead,” he said.

“They enjoy unlimited political protection from any of their professional and administrative shortcomings.

“Devolution has failed — it is an unwelcome word to those who are supposed to implement it.  The only thing that has been devolved so far is the blame.”

Manyenyeni said the council’s salary backlog which stood between three and four months in 2016 has now “deteriorated and the current permanent backlog is now around seven months”.

“Efforts to right size our wage packets have met with political and legal headwinds,” he said.

“The colloquial mantra ‘they do thega’ is at play and it does not work. If nothing is done about our employment cost by the time we hand over to the next council, the backlog will be a cool 15 months.

Manyenyeni said Harare’s residents have increased their efforts to litter the city at a time when council’s waste collection capacity has declined.

“We have paid lip service to wetlands: we seem to find non-compliant development dribbling past the system quite often,” he said.

“. . . The development of houses on wetlands and the consequences were there for all to see this past rainy season.”

Manyenyeni said the March 2013 debt write off by Zanu PF hit the city hard.

“Your council started 2013 on the back of two crippling signatures in March 2013, the ministerial approval of the current salary levels and in July 2013, the debt write-off of $330 million equivalent to more than two years revenue,” Manyenyeni said.

“Not only do we now find ourselves paying nearly $10 million dollars in salaries from a collection of $13 million dollars monthly with seven months’ arrears, but we are also faced with a ratepayer who is expecting another write-off in 2018.”

He blasted the Zimbabwe National Roads Authority (Zinara).

“Motorists pay vehicle licences to Zinara, which money should maintain trafficable roads: the resources and the responsibility cannot be separated,” he said.

“We don’t know where the licence fees for Harare vehicles are going to.”

He shared residents’ grief and anguish over the excessive number of roadblocks mounted by the Zimbabwe Republic Police within the city.

“The pain of the roadblocks is widely shared in our communities, and has been exported by visitors to further de-market and derail tourism in the city and in the country.”

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