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Summary of Findings
of the Audit
Residents Association (ZURA) & Combined Harare Residents' Association
audits of relevant pieces of legislation in the above section, the
following observations are made.
system of representative democracy is entrenched in our legal system.
Residents in any urban local authority have a right to elect representatives
into a council. The elected agents, (the councillors) will then
administer the affairs of the city on behalf of the residents. Residents
are therefore conferred with the right to vote at elections that
are held at a four-year interval. Further, there are provisions
in the Urban Councils Act that allow residents to directly participate
in the decision making process of a council. This process gives
the residents the right to object to certain decisions made by the
are however not fool proof. On a closer look, there are certain
weaknesses in the systems that inhibit effective public participation.
Below are some of the weaknesses that were identified: -
was observed that although on paper, the residents have a right
to elect agents of their choice into office, they do not have the
corresponding right to recall them (vote of no confidence) should
they wish to do so. As such they are often stuck until the next
election with representatives who no longer represent their interests
and aspirations, or worse still who abuse their offices and betray
It was observed
that the only person who, in terms of the law, could reach out to
an erstwhile council is the Minister of Local Government, exercising
his powers in terms of section 114 of the Act. The exercise of these
powers by the Minister, it was observed, is entirely discretionary.
Further, it is restricted to a situation where the Minister has
reason to believe that a particular council is guilty of some misdemeanour/misconduct.
therefore advocated a system under which they would be given the
power to vote out of office a council that abandons their mandate
or that is involved in any corrupt practices. It was felt that this
should not be left to the Minister, because the residents are closer
to their councillors than the Minister and are therefore in a better
place to monitor their performance and conduct.
residents further advocated an Anti Corruption Commission to monitor
the operations of local authorities.
was further observed that, even though residents have the right
to regularly elect their representatives, the Minister of Justice
could subvert this right using power conferred upon him in terms
of section 103K of the Local Authorities Electoral Laws Amendment
Act that allows him to postpone elections. The Minister of Local
Government could also subvert this right in terms of section 80
of the Act. This provision empowers him to appoint a commission
to run the affairs of a local authority for a period of up to six
months where there is no council in place. This applies where he
would have suspended or dismissed a council using his powers as
was made against a background where the Minister had used his powers
in terms of that section to appoint a commission to run the affairs
of the City of Harare, which Commission was then kept in office
way beyond its statutory tenure.
Whilst it was
conceded that there may arise situations when it may be prudent
for the Minister to exercise his powers in terms of the said provision,
his continued re-appointments of the City of Harare Commission amounted
to a denial of the residents' right to an elected council. It was
therefore resolved that the legislation should make it clear that
the term of office of a commission can not be extended after the
initial period of six months. The commission must be there solely
to facilitate the elections, and a quota system must be put in place
to ensure that marginalized groups are represented.
the right conferred on residents to object to certain decision by
a council, particularly the issue of raising of rates and other
charges, a process that affects the residents most, a number of
shortcomings were observed.
To start with,
most residents were not aware that they have a right to make representations
and objections to the raising of rates and other related charges.
This was attributed to lack of civic education strategies on the
part of local authorities. It was observed that this was due to
the fact that there is no obligation on the part of local authorities
to do so. It was proposed that local authorities should be obliged
to put in place civic education programmes.
was observed that in certain instances, even though the residents
were given the right to raise objections, the objections they raise
are not adjudicated over by a partial body. They are instead adjudicated
over by the same council against whom they are raised. It was resolved
that an independent arbiter should deal with the objections.
were made based on parallels drawn from other legal systems. Drawing
examples from jurisdictions in the Western world, for instance Germany
and Switzerland, it was proposed that we should introduce a referendum
system where certain important civic issues and decisions are referred
to a referendum for public approval.
following the realization that almost all the councils were dominated
by certain quarters, for example men, it was proposed that there
be affirmative action in favour of disadvantaged groups. Inspiration
was drawn from countries like Uganda where there is affirmative
action in favour of women, the youth and the disabled, in local
observe that for there to be an effective monitoring system of local
authorities, Residents Associations should be recognized in terms
of the relevant laws.
argue that in keeping with the purpose and spirit of decentralization,
the affairs of local authorities should be decentralized.
related to the issue of decentralization was also the long-standing
issue of a one-city concept. It was once again reiterated that there
was need to abolish the two tire system for the levying of rates
that draws a distinction between the high density and the low suburbs.
The above observations
having been made, this paper shall in the next chapter suggest some
key policy proposals to give effect to some of the proposals that
were made. It will be underlined that some of the proposals that
require further research could be subject of a separate inquiry,
and may therefore be achieved in the long term. These include the
decentralisation process and the recognition of residents associations.
We shall focus in this discussion on what are conceived as short-term
policy proposals, that is, those that it is believed can easily
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