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Service delivery crisis: Welcome home Mr. President
Combined Harare Residents Association (CHRA)
December 07, 2011

The recent visit by the President of Zimbabwe to Chitungwiza has exposed the huge gap that lies between the community and our leaders. His Excellency, President Robert Mugabe lamented the state of service delivery in Chitungwiza and Harare saying that it leaves a lot to be desired as compared to how the two local authorities were during his working days. This development has opened a can of worms which has just but confirmed our reports and advocacy on the need to improve the provision of rudimentary services whilst exposing how out of touch with reality our leaders are. Basically, the argument behind erratic service provision lies under the banner of bad governance at both central and local authorities' level, exacerbated by non responsive statutes like the urban councils act. We vividly recall the statement made by President Mugabe in 1999 at a function hosted by the Rural District Councils Association where he argued that "participation is the involvement of people at every level of decision making". Today, residents have become aliens of their own local authorities whilst the Minister of Local Government enjoys the playing field to himself. The continuous dismissal of elected councilors is impacting negatively on service provision. It is a matter of public knowledge, that the 2008 Cholera outbreak was a result of gross financial mismanagement by the appointed commissions which plunged the provision of social services into disarray at the expense of residents' welfare. Having realized that our President is not in touch with reality we present this open letter seeks as a brief reflection of the current state of service delivery in our communities.


On the first of September this year, ZESA increased electricity tariffs by 31% without consulting residents and industry as part of its stakeholder base. This was done in contravention of the electricity act and residents have since made it clear that they cannot afford the increase despite the fact that it was categorically clear that there wasn't going to be any improvement in terms of electricity supply. Our communities have become dark cities, going for long hours without electricity and this has adversely affected the environment and poses a health threat because residents opt for firewood as an alternative source of power.


Provision of water is erratic with some sections of Harare going for months without water. We are concerned with the fact that Harare city council is under pressure to supply water to other towns like Chitungwiza and Norton let alone Harare. Unprotected water sources are now a second option for sourcing water for domestic use. This has caused serious health problems which have culminated in the current typhoid outbreak in Dzivararekwa and other communities. Memories of how 4000 residents died in 2008 are still fresh in our minds and if this issue is not addressed urgently we might be heading for the same disaster as in 2008. The city of Harare needs about 1400 mega liters of water a day yet the city is only providing about 500 mega liters a day. This is unacceptable and a violation of our fundamental socio-economic rights. Mr. President we demand water from our taps.


Our public infrastructure is in shambles. Public toilets in Harare do not cater for the disabled. The way they are structured does not allow for the physically handicapped people to use without any challenges despite their polluted state. Driving in the roads of Harare is a horrendous experience as you experienced in Chitungwiza. Roads leading to most of the southern suburbs are heavily potholed and this has led to many accidents especially in this rain season. Roads in communities have become unusable which has had a negative effect to the operation of the public transport network.


Despite the resuscitation of refuse collection in our communities, undesignated dumpsites have come back on the scene again and this poses health risks to residents. The typhoid cases which were reported in December 2009 in Mabvuku were traced to the existence of garbage dumpsites in the area. There is a need for the City of Harare to procure additional refuse collection trucks and revamp controlled tipping in order to get rid of indiscriminate disposal of refuse.


At least 1.1 million residents are on the housing waiting list in search of a stand to construct a house. However, many residents especially those that were affected by operation Murambatsvina are still living without proper housing. CHRA is deeply concerned with the corruption that has stalled progress in the provision of housing services; a situation that is being worsened by some political bigwigs who are accumulating housing stands through unscrupulous means. Mr. President some of your people are leaving in shacks and are in urgent need of land and housing especially in this rain season.

We hope that Mr President you will put to task our Ministers concerned to actively address the day to day challenges facing residents in Harare. We urge your honorable office to amplify the voice of residents on the need to constitutionalize local government as this is a good step towards addressing some of these challenges. Stakeholders in local government have been calling on local government to be enshrined in the constitution as will ensure that treasury can directly fund local authorities for them to put up with the provision of these basic services. Local authorities do not have enough funding to sustain service delivery and this has seen them loading the burden on the shoulders of residents heavily billing them in order to sustain operations. The continuous interference of Minister Chombo in the running of affairs in local authorities is also a clear stumbling block to effective service delivery. We urge you Mr. President to stop this "unholy hand" in our local authorities. We are of the view that the current revision of the Urban Councils Act will bring sanity and also allow for residents to participate fully and retain ownership of their respective local authorities, a situation which will improve service provision.

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