Back to Index
to article index
for amendments to legislation on local government
policy changes and amendments
Residents Association (ZURA) & Combined Harare Residents' Association
In this chapter,
we present the specific policy proposals and the necessary amendments
to the urban councils act aimed at enhancing civic participation
in municipal governance. Attempts have been made to carefully analyse
the changes proposed in terms of institutional capacity to see their
execution and implementation, the resultant outcomes and impacts,
financial implications on the national and local authority fiscus
and other factors. The proposed changes are numbered for easy reference.
that the Residents be conferred with the Power of Recall
the power of recall is commonplace in most democracies, it is not
legally entrenched in our Zimbabwean legal system. The right by
an electorate to vote out of office elected agents is not legally
entrenched even in the Constitution of the country.
right is recognized in municipal laws as was suggested, it is proposed
that this has to start with the national Constitution itself.
It is therefore suggested that this issue be taken up as a constitutional
issue, which unfortunately appears to be a long-term issue.
In the immediate
term, it is however suggested that one could still utilize the existing
provisions to achieve the same result, that is, to enable residents
to hold accountable their elected representatives.
It is therefore
proposed that the powers conferred upon the Minister to act as the
upper guardian of the rights and interests of the residents be shared
with the residents.
In terms of
section 311, of the Act, the Minister has the power to appoint an
investigator to investigate any affairs of a local authority and
to act on the findings of any such investigation. In terms of section
114, as discussed earlier, s/he may in his/her discretion suspend
(or ultimately dismiss) a council.
It is proposed
that further to the ministerial discretion in invoking this provision,
this section may be amended to provide for a public petition
system. The amendments would make it compulsory for the
Minister to act once a petition by a particular percentage of the
electorate is presented to him.
expediency, the mobilization of the necessary numbers for the purposes
of the petition would be left to the residents concerned. The threshold
requirement, it will be observed, guarantees against abuse of the
system. This amendment it is argued, can easily be implemented,
as it does not entail institutional changes but is merely a matter
of legal reform.
of an Anti Corruption Commission
proposal, it is suggested, must be looked at in light of amendment
number 16 to the Constitution of Zimbabwe. This amendment established
the Anti Corruption Commission to deal with issues of corruption
both in the private and public sector.
It is submitted
that this Commission is sufficient to deal with issues of corruption
in local authorities. These shall include among many, the gender
procedures and use of council property. What is required is for
residents to lobby for the appointment of the commission that, notwithstanding
the amendment, is not yet functional.
The issue here
is therefore one of implementation rather than policy.
Term of office
of a Commission
Harare Commission saga, with respect, was either an issue of misinterpretation
of the law or abuse of statutory powers.
The issue of
the duration of the term of office of a commission has since been
clarified in the case of Samudzimu and Others vs. The Minister
of Local Government and Others.
clarity if not brevity's sake it is proposed that section 80 of
the Act be amended so that it is read together with Part XIXA of
the Local Authorities Election Laws Amendment Act 21/97 on the conduct
of local authority elections. It should be made clear that during
the tenure of office of a commission, there should put in place
mechanisms for the holding of elections. We need to emphasise that
a commission is a stoppage measure and therefore its tenure should
be strictly limited for purposes of facilitating the elections of
of an Independent Arbiter
proposal is very easy to achieve as the institution is already provided
for in terms of section 312 of the Act. Section 312 provides for
the appointment of an independent board to deal with objections
where any provision of the Act enjoins the Minister to do so.
If any provision
of the Act requires that any objections raised should be referred
to arbitration, then the Minister is enjoined to appoint the board
constituted in terms of section 312.
It is therefore
suggested that all provisions conferring on the residents the right
to raise objections, unless if they refer to other independent arbitrating
bodies such as the courts, then such provisions should be amended
to the effect that, any objections raised shall be referred
for independent arbitration in terms of the Act. That way
all such objections would fall for determination by the board appointed
in terms of section 312.
It is proposed
that these amendments be effected particularly to sections 219(7)
(b) and 228 (7) (b) of the Act.
appears to be more an issue for civic organizations to take up than
for local authorities. Moreover, even if it were argued to be the
responsibility of local authorities, this issue may be dealt with
for a Referendum System and Recognition of Residents Associations
the proposals that have been made above were implemented, they would
firmly entrench the participation of the residents in the management
of their affairs to such an extent that it may not be necessary
to pursue this proposal. Although this proposal is not necessarily
inconsistent with the others proposed above, if the ones proposed
above were adopted, this may render the proposal superfluous. It
would amount, in the writer's view, to chewing more than we can
the proposal were to be adopted, then it would be in the long term.
The proposal envisages not just legal reform but also institutional
changes with far reaching logistical and financial implications.
The same predicament
bedevils the proposals on the recognition of Residents Associations.
If these were
to be adopted, there would be need to amendment the Act, by the
introduction of enabling provisions, establishing (creating) the
institutions. The amendments would have to go further to deal with
such complex issues as how the systems would be synchronized with
existing ones. Regulations must be put in place to deal with the
modalities of the operations of the systems. For instance on the
question of the recognition of Residents Associations, there would
be need to define their function, composition, election system,
the extent of their powers, their relationship with council, how
they will be financed etc.
All these issues
need to be investigated further and are in themselves subject of
a separate inquiry. The starting point however is that these proposals
of services can be achieved administratively once the residents
put in place an efficient, effective and accountable council. All
that is required is that the council equips its district offices
with the necessary equipment for them to be able to respond to the
urgent needs of their localities. This can therefore be achieved,
if the residents insist on an efficient, affective and transparent
may be a medium term proposal as it entails an unprecedented re-orientation
of our system of local government. It will be pointed out that we
do not have the concept of affirmative action at parliamentary level
and as such its introduction at local government level would be
some what, novel. Given this fact, it is difficult to say whether
there will be the necessary political will to do so. Charity always
begins at home.
level this again would entail amendment of the Constitution. At
local government it would entail introducing new clauses in the
Act, providing for among other things, affirmative action for defined
disadvantaged groups e.g. the disabled, youths and women, how they
obtain office and what percentages of the seats are reserved for
each particular group. This is mainly an issue of legal reform and
depending on the political will, can be easier to implement, although
further homework would need to be done on it.
therefore be introduced a quota system over and above the normal
indicated earlier, the proposals herein emphasized are those that
can easily be implemented. These are mainly those that require amendments
to the law, for them to be effective. Their implementation therefore
only requires the political will of those in authority. On the part
of the residents, the challenge is for them to prevail upon those
on whom the power to realize the amendments lie, so that they identify
with the cause.
Please credit www.kubatana.net if you make use of material from this website.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License unless stated otherwise.