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  • Zimbabwe's Elections 2013 - Index of Articles

  • Key service delivery priorities for 2013- 2018 council in Harare
    Harare Residents' Trust (HRT)
    September 25, 2013

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    The elections in Zimbabwe came at a time when residents were experiencing serious social hardships and stable political and economic conditions. The period leading up to the elections was intense, with restrictive timeframes to carry out comprehensive voter education, and raising awareness on how to enhance citizen participation. All the political party stakeholders were convinced that they would make a difference during elections. At the time of the 31 July 2013 elections, the City of Harare had eight ward vacancies, following suspensions and dismissals of the elected councillors by the Minister of Local Government, Rural and Urban Development. The major reason councillors were suspended is that allegations of mismanagement, improper conduct, abuse of authority and corruption were levelled against them. The outgoing Harare City Council was elected into office on 29 March 2008, and was officially dissolved on 29 June 2013, having held its last full council meeting on Thursday 27 June at the council chambers. Forty-six councillors were elected, representing the 46 wards of Harare, with one councillor from the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (Zanu-PF) with the rest from the Movement for Democratic Change-Tsvangirai (MDC-T), and the Minister of Local Government, Rural and Urban Development Ignatius Chombo appointed 11 special interest councillors in line with Section 4A (1) (b) of the Urban Councils’ Act (Chapter 29.15) which specify that: Subject to this Act, every municipal and town council shall consist of (b) such number of appointed councillors representing special interests, not exceeding one-quarter of the number of elected councillors, as the Minister may fix in respect of the council by statutory instrument, and who shall hold office during the pleasure of the Minister. By the time the council expired, two councillors Ruth Kavunika (Ward 2) and Christopher Tigere (Ward 11) had died, six others had been dismissed by the Minister, while four others had been dismissed by the MDC-T for alleged acts of corruption and indiscipline in their party. Two of those dismissed by the MDC-T had also been dismissed by Minister Chombo, while the other two remained in council, taking advantage of the loopholes in the Urban Councils Act that gives the Minister the sole responsibility to dismiss or suspend a councillor. In this analysis, the Harare Residents’ Trust (HRT) outlines the key areas of focus, reflecting on the 2008- 2013 council, and what to look forward to in the 2013- 2018 council, separately from the Harare Metropolitan Council, and jointly within the Metropolitan Council.

    2. Water and sewerage reticulation

    According to the City of Harare’s outgoing Mayor Mr Muchadeyi Masunda, the city requires 1 200 megalitres of water daily for a hub of an estimated 4,5 million people in Harare, Norton, Chitungwiza, Ruwa, Epworth and Inkomo Barracks during winter and 1 400 mega litres during summer. However, due to their challenges, they can only pump around 600 mega litres per day, representing 50 percent of their pumping capacity. They have it on record that 50 percent of treated water pumped is lost along the distribution network due to aging distribution pipes and leakages. Records at Harare Water show that there are between 165 000- 200 000 consumers in their database as at November 2012, and 2, 5 million people live in Harare. Engineer Christopher Magwenzi Zvobgo, the Director of Harare Water told participants to a workshop held last November at Wild Geese Lodge near Hatcliffe that 50 percent of water revenue, estimated at US$3 million was being spent on water treatment chemicals due to high levels of pollution. He said their customer base is not fully captured and so needed a system that will technically assist the council in data capture. Harare has eight pump stations including the Dzivaresekwa Pump which is dysfunctional, which were all installed in the early 1950s. These are Warren Control, Avondale, Letombo, Prince Edward, Alexander, Orange Groove, Crowhill, and Dzivaresekwa.

    3. Road network

    The road network in Harare’s western and eastern suburbs leaves a lot to be desired. The roads and streets within the residential and industrial areas are heavily potholed. The City of Harare previously used funds raised from vehicle licensing to repair roads. But this responsibility was taken over by the Zimbabwe National Road Authority (ZINARA). Disbursements to the City of Harare are haphazard, and are done without following any known system, and the figures are not consistent. It is critical that the new council at Town House has to fully engage with ZINARA and the Ministry of Transport to find a lasting solution to the problems of poor road maintenance, rehabilitation and expansion. Where necessary some of the roads in the communities need to be resurfaced to replace the remnants of tar. From the time the national road authority disbursed funds to the City of Harare, the trend has been that of declining incomes from that side, increasing the pressure on the council’s rates account of council. This year ZINARA donated a pothole filling machine, Jet Patcher worth US$550 000. ZINARA has disbursed US$2, 050, 000 (2012), US$4, 042, 000 (2010) and US$654 337 in 2009. It is critical to note that the City of Harare used to generate around US$5 million in vehicle licensing, which claimed to use for road maintenance and rehabilitation. And at the time, the vehicle population was lower than the current trends where vehicular popular has far exceeded the carrying capacity of the central business district, resulting in over-congestion and chaos. Rates are being used to deal with lights.

    4. Street lighting

    Most streets in the high density suburbs have no lights, putting the lives of residents at high risk, particularly children and women who have to carry out economic activities like vending at the local community shops. This is an area that was not attended to during the tenure of the last council. The security of citizens within their neighbourhoods is seriously compromised as thieves, robbers and rapists take advantage of the dark to commit crimes that are preventable. The City of Harare is billed for all street lights by the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA) but whenever they default in payment, ZESA disconnects Town House and Cleveland Building as measures to coerce the local authority to pay up. Presently, reports indicate that the local authority owes the power utility around US$40 million. This covers street lighting, buildings, including the hostels in Mbare, water pump stations, and stadia. According to council officials, tenants in Mbare hostels, who have bulk metres registered in the name of City of Harare, used to pay for their electricity through rentals but for unclear reasons, they stopped making payments to the City of Harare. This has deprived the local authority of the much needed revenue. So for owing the power utility, the blocks of flats are not disconnected, but Town House is punished. This relationship and arrangement on electricity costing by the power utility has to be revisited. It is estimated that Mbare hostels owe ZESA around US$6 million.

    5. Law enforcement in town planning

    City by-laws, regulations and the sections of the Urban Councils’ Act and the Regional, Town and Country Planning Act (Chapter 29.12) have not been strictly enforced and or adhered to, creating a monitoring gap that promotes high incidences of corruption and pilfering of council resources, benefiting few council employees. Housing extensions, transport congestion in the central business district, vending activities, plan approvals and monitoring of health regulations are key activities that have gone unregulated, allowing for illegality to settle in within the systems of council. The absence of a consistent monitoring system to regulate the activities within residential, industrial, market places, and in the central business district presents serious challenges for any potential investor. Policymakers have a huge task to ensure that the systems of council are upgraded or adequately implemented.

    6. Waste management and health delivery

    The collection of refuse in residential areas remains inconsistent. The situation was deplorable without any refuse collection when the 2008- 2013 council came into office. However, towards the end of 2012, the council secured a loan to purchase 27 refuse compactors, building on the 20 refuse compactors that were bought in 2010. This ensures that each of the 46 wards is serviced by a refuse collection truck. Heaps of uncollected garbage remains visible at shopping centre and at street corners. The major challenge being given by waste management officials is the erratic supply of fuel to service the residents. Where the council passes a week or two without refuse collection, residents have no obligation to pay for a service not received. The HRT sees this as a relapse to the situation of the past when council’s operations were affected by general neglect of responsibilities by key officials, and a poor monitoring system to ensure strict adherence to refuse collection schedules. But of note is the level of positive engagement between the waste management department and the residents, where joint clean up campaigns have been undertaken. Most of the garbage collected is dumped at the Pomona dumpsite near Hatcliffe, requiring all the vehicles to have a fuel allocation of at least 100 litres a week.

    7. Representation by elected councillors

    Councillors are elected in terms of the Electoral Act and their work is guided by the provisions of the Urban Councils’ Act, the Regional, Town and Country Planning Act and other pieces of legislation like the Public Health Act, Public Finance Management Act, and the Environment Management Act among others. A key expectation of residents is that councillors must play representative and policymaking roles, acting on residents’ behalf. What remain unclear are the legal roles of councillors. Nothing is specified in the Urban Councils’ Act, leaving this role to be defined and regulated by bureaucrats at Town House, who manipulate these processes to ensure they totally control the policymaking function and exclusively implement council policies and programmes. Upon assumption of office by the 2008-2013 council, the majority if not all the elected councillors were ignorant of their mandate. Instead of playing their policymaking role, they ended up behaving more like employees of the council. Their thrust was wealth accumulation and pursuing a partisan agenda, and being confrontational with city employees perceived to be Zanu-PF. This attitude led to stalled progress in terms of building a team to take Harare forward. The calibre of the majority of the elected councillors left a lot to be desired as they lacked a basic appreciation of the different roles played by various people in council, and therefore viewed everything through partisan political lenses. As a result they adopted a hostile and negative attitude towards the Minister of Local Government, Rural and Urban Development, whose reading and appreciation of the local government legislation is unmatched by the councillors. Going forward, these key elements have to be tackled in a sober and progressive manner. This led to these councillors being either suspended or dismissed. Only 19 of the councillors from the previous council were retained by the electorate, vindicating the HRT’s position that the majority of the councillors were highly incompetent and failed to play their roles to the satisfaction of the electorate. But the assessment is inadequate without mentioning the diversionary and disruptive role of the senior management of council who were accused of interfering in the policymaking functions of councillors by not making available crucial information when decisions were made at committee and full council levels. This resulted in some resolutions being made, against budgetary provisions.

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