No public interest in running of local govt

HARARE - The Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing recently held a national “Local Government Investment Conference’’ which it conveniently dubbed with a catchy acronym, Logic.

According to the Urban Councils Association of Zimbabwe’s (UCAZ) organising committee for the event, the theme was ‘‘Local Government: Promoting Investment and Industrialisation for Socio-economic Development.’’

The underpinning “logic’’ of the conference was as its title suggested, ‘‘investment’’.  And this, from a very corporatist (World Bank) perspective.

This was evidenced by the announced themes of the conference which included, “embracing the ease of doing business’’, “investment opportunities in urban local authorities’’, “SME’s as engines for local economic growth’’ and ‘‘gender mainstreaming in promoting investment for socio-economic development’’.

I am sure a myriad of other types of ‘‘investments’’ were discussed under the pretext of the much vaunted but clearly private-profit motivated ‘‘public private partnerships’’( PPPs).

Judging from the key note speaker’s address, the most keenly followed type was that in housing or property ownership.

Even though Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa called for a stop to what he referred to as ‘‘land barons’’, he would know all too well why the former are the greatest investment that local governments (urban and rural districts, including some chieftancies) are in most cases conveniently accepting despite allegations of corruption.

This is largely because of downright greed and distribution of political patronage.

More significantly it is because ever since the Fast Track Land Reform programme, farmland in close proximity to urban or peri-urban has become easy money for those that are politically connected. 

Or in some cases, as evidenced by the developments in Mazowe district, those at the highest levels of political power can convert vast tracts of land, ostensibly with the State’s permission, into an orphanage, animal park and as announced recently, a university.

All this while conveniently close to some more former agricultural land, once controlled by a rural district council, that will be converted to national government use due to the pending re-location of the Parliament of Zimbabwe.

What we essentially have, even under the guise of “orderly investment” as being prescribed by ‘‘Logic’’, is a ‘‘smash, grab, own and profit’’ privatisation of public capital.

And they are not hiding it. All the while taking a cue from what’s happening at the national level with the ongoing privatisation of electricity/energy, national health services, education, transport as well as land.

So local government is essentially a ‘‘share of the spoils’’ of those that would leverage public capital for private profit.

The main reason for this and why this trend has emerged and continues to do so is that the ruling and opposition parties clearly function from the same neo-liberal and private wealth accrual template.

The ruling party as the one that oversees local government and the mainstream opposition MDC as that which controls a majority of urban councils.

Furthermore, the fact that civil society while being aware and in part fighting against corruption in local authorities, has not put up a clear counter-ideological narrative to neo-liberalism ala-carte Zanu Pf.

Not necessarily because they cannot mount cogent arguments for alternatives such as democracy or democratic socialism.

They can but they will not for reason that vary from fear of loss of funding or not really wanting to ruffle the feathers of private capital.

The end effect of these approaches to local government is that there is no social and economic justice for a majority of poor Zimbabweans.

It will not only be government extracting from them through rates and taxes, but private companies that receive tenders to supply pre-paid machines for water as well as those that win opaque land development tenders even if the State-owned Urban Development Corporation claims that it is overall in charge of the same.

At the moment, there is little or no democratic public interest in the way our local government is being run.

Even if State and private capital collude under hollow sounding acronyms such as “Logic”.

Post a comment

Readers are kindly requested to refrain from using abusive, vulgar, racist, tribalistic, sexist, discriminatory and hurtful language when posting their comments on the Daily News website.
Those who transgress this civilised etiquette will be barred from contributing to our online discussions.
- Editor

Your email address will not be shared.