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No taxation without representation

Download Petition - RTF version (18KB), PDF version (34KB)

Harare Residents reiterate their condemnation of the decision by the Minister of Local Government and National Housing to extend the term of office of the Commission running Harare. This action is contrary to the spirit of the Urban Councils Act which states that the Minister shall not unduly extend the life such a commission. We call upon him to immediately take steps to run Council and Mayoral elections.

The argument that the Commission has done a good job, as justification for extending its term of office, is weak on two grounds. First, residents and ratepayers have a democratic right to be represented by Councillors of their choice and therefore elections should be held whenever they are due, not on the basis of someone’s assessment of the performance of the incumbent administration.

Secondly, claims of achievement and good performance in media advertisements recently made by the Commission at great cost to ratepayers and now being echoed by the Minister of Local Government and National Housing, have never been substantiated by a disinterested third party. There were two options open to the Commission to support its suspicious claims of financial turnaround: an audited statement and/or affirmation by residents themselves. But unfortunately, it is understood that the last audited statements of the City were for a financial year not later than 1997/98. In March of 2000 the Commission promised to hold quarterly meetings with the Combined Harare Residents Association. That Association indicated then it would use the meetings as a platform on which to monitor application of funds and implementation of agreed plans. After two meetings, the Commission inexplicably discontinued the contact, and in so doing deprived itself of an excellent opportunity to have residents verify the extravagant claims now being made.

In a letter to the Combined Residents Association last year, the Minister gave as his excuse, the argument that Council elections would be held only when the courts had concluded the legal case between dismissed Councillors and himself. This is also an untenable argument. One cannot deprive citizens of their democratic right to representation in order to appease an aggrieved third party. The term of office of dismissed Councillors came to an end a long time ago. If they have a grievance against the Minister, let them seek legal satisfaction in court by way of suitable compensation but that action should in no way interfere with the right of citizens to democratic representation.

In March 2000 the Commission promised to walk the road to a 2001 budget together with the Combined Harare Residents Association by way of a consultative process commencing not later than September 01, 2000. Without even a pretext, the Commission unilaterally imposed its own budget proposals, called for objections and set a deadline for the same for January 19th, 2001. By giving objectors only from 27th December, 2000 to January 19th 2001, the Commission even violated the statutory requirement of 30 days for such objections.

As some residents may be aware, the Combined Harare Residents Association is in the throes of building alliances with various progressive bodies that appreciate the rights of citizens. One such consultation has been with all members of Parliament within the Harare Province. In conjuction with these parliamentarians, CHRA is circulating a petition headed NO TAXATION WITHOUT REPRESENTATION, calling for signatories to object to the 2001 City of Harare budget. The petition cites, among other things, the failure of the City to maintain basic service delivery, let alone initiate new programmes. As residents are aware, heaps of uncollected refuse are conspicuous by their size, inviting rats and, with them, the threat of a bubonic plague. When refuse collection was privatized, the City decided, in its everlasting wisdom, to retain the staff of the refuse collection department while canibalising vehicles and equipment. Potholes have become a permanent feature of road surface. Street lighting leaves a lot to be desired. The sewage disposal system creaking under the load of a growing city, is giving way, spewing its contents on the surface of the earth in some place. We have had an outbreak of cholera before; we are at risk again. Harare residents are called upon to sign the petition in their tens of thousands. The volume of objections itself is a message.

CHRA has sought legal opinion and has been advised as follows:

  1. It is illegal for city of Harare to cut off one’s water supply for any reason at all, as this violates a number of one’s human rights including health;
  2. It is even more illegal for water supply to be cut off for non-payment of a different service than water;
  3. There is a strong basis for residents to seek a court injunction temporarily suspending collection of rates until guarantees are put in place that service delivery commensurate with the value of rates collected will be achieved and until demonstrable evidence of sound financial management is furnished.

CHRA is raising funds for such court action.

The mood of residents calling on CHRA is such that it will be very difficult to restrain calls for boycotts and mass action.

For further details contact:

  • Combine Harare Residents' Association
    Advocacy Centre, Flat 5 Bucklands Court, 264 Chitepo Ave, Harare, Zimbabwe
    P.O. Box 7870, Harare, Zimbabwe
    Tel/Fax: +263-(0)4-705156
    Email: chra@ecoweb.co.zw

Register your protests with:

  • Ministry of Local Government and National Housing
    P.Bag 7706, Causeway, Harare, Zimbabwe
    Tel: +263-(0)4-728201/9, 792857/9
  • City of Harare
    P.O.Box 1680, Harare, Zimbabwe
    Tel: +263-(0)4-752979
  • The Harare Commission
    Attention: Mr E. Chanakira
    P.O.Box 990, Harare, Zimbabwe
    Tel: +263-(0)4-752577, 781810

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