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Harare mayor's appeal an admission of failure

06 Jun 2021 at 09:03hrs | Views
THE appeal by acting mayor Stewart Mutizwa has been received with mixed reactions by residents of Harare, who feel that it lacks sincerity and practical application.

The City of Harare has to institutionalise accountability and be transparent in everything it does.

Those who criticise the appeal argue that the mayor's actions are without merit given that the City of Harare does not listen to ratepayers most of the time.

Others have, however, commended the acting mayor saying at least they now know the real situation obtaining in the council and can make their alternative strategies to clear their uncollected garbage as residents.

The Harare Residents' Trust (HRT) views the appeal with concern.

It is a mere appeal without offering anything to the residents, yet the City of Harare continues to be rigid on its costing of services.

Residents have repeatedly stated that they are unable to pay on average US$50 per month in rates to the council.

The City of Harare has insisted that they are charging cost-recovery rates, which means that they expect to recover their expenses on the provision of services from the ratepayers.

The expectation was that if the City of Harare really cared about securing partnerships with residents, they would incentivise the whole programme such that residents would know that if they played their part, the City of Harare would officially recognise their contribution to the provision of social services.

The City of Harare is mandated by law to provide essential social services to the citizens.

The constitution, Urban Councils' Act (Chapter 29.15), Regional, Town and Country Planning Act (Chapter 29.12) and supporting council by-laws and policies have clear provisions on what the mandate of the local authority is.

The acting mayor said: "Garbage is everyone's child hence we need to put our heads together to tackle what is slowly becoming a bad spot on the Sunshine image of our city.

"We can blame each other but that will not resolve the matter.

"However, all customers need to play their part - with residents and corporates paying their bills."

What concerns the HRT the most about this part of the statement is the apparent failure by the mayor to acknowledge the city's failure to execute its mandate as provided in the law.

Mutizwa seems to be suggesting that the City of Harare officials and councillors have belatedly realised their failures to collect garbage when they are daily claiming to be doing council work on behalf of the ratepayers.

This is not slowly becoming "a bad spot on the sunshine image of our city", but it is a huge dent to our image as Harare.

This is a serious problem warranting seriousness from the city fathers.

Investors, visitors and returning residents coming to the Robert Mugabe International Airport encounter huge garbage heaps in the central business district and along our streets before they come face to face with more uncollected garbage piles in the residential and industrial areas.

The impression created is of a city in real crisis and not just a bad spot.

More work has to be done to correct the image created of a council without leadership.

Our expectation is that right decisions must be made to address service delivery shortcomings.

These decisions include but not limited to disciplining errant workers who seem to enjoy the status quo, or even fuelling the sabotaging of the council to achieve ulterior motives.

The City of Harare should not expect us to commend them for doing what they are mandated to do by the constitution and supporting legislation.

The HRT can only encourage the council to do the right thing from time to time as a way of building up good working relationships with its stakeholders.

If indeed the garbage crisis is a collective responsibility, let us engage on more than what we all see on the streets.

The acting mayor attributes the dismal failure to fulfil their mandate to the failures by the ratepayers and corporates to pay their bills.

Mutizwa overlooked the well-documented corruption by the councillors and their management on land allocations, the absence of a proper billing system, the massive leakages of treated water along the distribution network as well as the ongoing leakages in the management of revenues.

He also forgot that the City of Harare over-employed, through councillors and council management, by nearly 4 000 employees soon after the July 30, 2018 harmonised elections.

Most of the garbage collectors, municipal police officers, sweepers and other low ranking employees in grades five to 16 were recruited through partisan and unorthodox means.

It, therefore, shows that the factor of non-payment of bills is minimal as compared to poorly conceived strategic decisions and policies that the councillors made in their governance and administration of Harare City Council.

The non-payment of bills is a direct result of how the 2021 budget was made without due consideration of the inputs of residents on the ward budget consultative meetings that the council conducted under Covid-19 regulations.

The non-payment of bills is an outcome of consistent exclusion of residents from council's decision-making processes especially in planning, budgeting, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of projects.

It is most unfortunate that the issue of rates payment, which comes at the end of the value chain, has been identified as a key failure factor by the acting mayor, revealing council's determination to circumvent the root causes of the problems of providing essential services to the residents.

A more scientific examination of the causes of dipping revenues would have helped the council to properly diagnose the problem.

Residents pay for services that they receive.

Without adequate water supplies, consistent sewer bursts and non-collection of refuse in most residential areas, the City of Harare has to do more than making generalised appeals.

The council should make a firm commitment to partner the residents and offer tangible incentives to guarantee sustainable collaboration.

The disbandment of the decentralisation policy, which had created eight administrative zones led by chief area administration officers further weakened the cohesion of the City of Harare in terms of building rapport with business, government agencies, ratepayers and other key stakeholders.

Therefore, the appeal by the acting mayor is an admission that on their own as the City of Harare they have failed to offer a legally provided mandate.

Their insistence that their charges are cost recovery is misplaced and a major hindrance to the successful revival of the provision of essential services.

Remaining adamant that their budget is right will not yield the much needed results.

Without a clear framework to guide the requested assistance from the ratepayers and corporates, the City of Harare will continue to struggle to institutionalise social accountability systems.

The call by the acting mayor is a major step in the right direction.

Council technocrats, residents, business and central government should come forward and offer their help in the manner prescribed by the council.

In order to sweeten the deal with its benefactors, the City of Harare has to come to the party and demonstrate that it is flexible to offering reasonable incentives to promote rates payment and increase its revenue base.

Source - the standard
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