By Harare Residents Trust
THE appeal by the Acting Mayor, Councillor Stewart Mutizwa has been received with mixed reactions by residents of Harare who feel that his appeal lacked sincerity and practical application.
The City of Harare has to institutionalise accountability and be transparent in everything it does.
Those who criticize the appeal argue that the Mayor’s appeal is 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 repeated 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 incentivize the whole programme such that residents know that if they played their part, the City of Harare would officially recognize 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.
Councillor Mutizwa seem 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 the 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 Elders. 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 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 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 on the failures by the ratepayers and corporates to pay their bills. Councillor 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 water 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 30 July 2018 harmonised elections. Most of the garbage collectors, municipal police officers, sweepers and other low ranking employees in grades 5- 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 decisionmaking 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 some 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.
The Chief Area Administration Officers acted like mini- town clerks leading clustered zones of combined wards with more than one district officers. A combined force of the Chief Area Administration Officers, District Officers, Revenue Officers and representatives of all council departments at zonal level, plus the ward councillors provided a sustainable platform for continuous dialogue among key stakeholders in council.
The Ward Development Committees under the chairpersonship of the ward councillors added to the inclusive governance of the community development projects, thus residents participated on the strength of promised ward retention funds.
The responsiveness of the council was commendable as the residents had wider options to raise their issues through the Chief Area Administration Officers who spread the residents’ reports directly to the District Officers and departmental representatives under the decentralisation model.
Considered from a social accountability perspective, the City of Harare abandoned a system that endeared them to the ratepayers.
The system provided an interactive system among residents, their elected representatives and appointed bureaucrats in a strictly non-partisan manner, and got several projects off the ground.
The Council was unfortunately forced to abandon the decentralisation policy following sustained administrative conflicts between the council directors and the Chief Area Administration Officers who now made more decisions than the directors of council departments.
Councillors were reportedly also irked by the new-found power and authority in the Chief Area Administration Officers and District Officers who were making significant service delivery decisions without the direct involvement of ward councillors.
The 25 percent ward retention programme was deliberately foiled by councillors and directors who did not approve of the ward community projects without their visibility as the leaders. They felt that they had lost their powers to their subordinates.
When the decentralisation programme was abandoned, a majority of the directors, councillors were relieved.
The Finance Director even refused to allow the zones to open their individual bank accounts in order to manage their ward retention funds.
Instead funding for the decentralisation model remained highly centralised with power politics prevailing over good governance and administration logic.
According to the Acting Mayor’s appeal message, the council wants residents and corporates “with the means to either repair or provide spares or to approach the Mayor for a list of the broken-down equipment and the required spares to revive the equipment.”
He further asked communities to come forward and adopt compactors and other equipment for repair and maintenance and use the same in their areas in the spirit of decentralisation.
While the message sounds nice, it lacks details on how this would be applied in the City of Harare. Questions that residents, members of the HRT are asking is what will the City of Harare do to compensate residents for the more than six months that they have failed to collect garbage in the suburbs?
Is the Council offering to remove the refuse collection charge for the four to six months in most suburbs? The tragedy is that while they made the appeal for residents and corporates to get more involved in helping the council combat uncollected garbage and broken down equipment, the Acting Mayor unfortunately fell short on detail to present a well-thought-out idea going forward.
Residents are demanding that the City of Harare remove refuse collection charges for the respective months when they have failed to collect garbage from the communities. According to Statutory Instrument 68 of 2021 under the Harare (Incorporated and Local Government Areas) (Waste Management) (Amendment) By-laws, 2021 (No. 28), residents in high density suburbs have to pay ZWL 565,00 while those in the low density suburbs have to pay ZWL803,00 per month for once a week refuse collection beginning 01 January 2021.
1. City of Harare should establish productive interactive platforms that have well-defined terms of reference for the continuous monitoring and evaluation of the city’s service delivery mandate.
2. To enhance the appeal, the HRT urges the City of Harare to put in place a framework for the appeal, outlining the specific needs in the council, breaking down the status of each vehicle, the components or parts required and the estimated cost of maintaining it, how the residents can come aboard, the processes and what the council is offering in return.
Helping a dysfunctional public service provider should be everyone’s call but there must be a system to the process to avoid disappointments and future conflicts.
3. The Mayor and the Town Clerk of Harare should consistently demand transparency and accountability from their councillors and managers in order to enhance resources allocation and planning, expenditure, performance, and oversight management within the City of Harare.
4. Proven incompetence among the council management should be transparently punished to convey a message of seriousness to deal with effective and efficient delivery of public goods and services.
5. The City of Harare has to offer incentives to ratepayers on specific areas of interventions in response to the call to reduce rates and the appeal for residents and corporates to intervene in garbage collection. They should stop their rigid approach of defending what is apparently not working. If the City of Harare wants to gain the trust and confidence of ratepayers, they have to abandon their argument that they costed their rates based on cost recovery basis because their cost recovery is not affordable to a majority of the ratepayers.
6. Most importantly, there must be enhanced access to information for the residents and corporates in line with Section 62 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (Number 20) of 2013. The total number of council workers and their monthly remuneration, broken down by grade for the 16 grades is critical information that the Mayor should have furnished the citizenry. Data on the costs incurred by the council to collect and throw away litter at the Pomona Dumpsite from the furthest and the closest location in Harare would help unpack the running costs of refuse collection. The amount of fuel per vehicle per day, and the distances travelled are critical data that would enhance accountability.
7. Given the admitted failure to do their work, the council should come up with strategic points where the city dwellers can dump the rubbish then council can collect from those strategic places to Pomona. Maybe they can avail skip bins at these strategic points. Community leaders become vital stakeholders under this scenario for mobilization. Education also among communities becomes key. Communities need to be able to separate litter at source.
This will go a long way in minimizing the amount of trash which then find its way to the dumpsite.
Conclusion: 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.
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