I have read many articles by your paper in which residents and journalists have accused the Harare city council of mediocrity, corruption and general failure to provide service. I therefore take this unusual stand to respond.
Sunday View by Herbert Gomba
I am serving a councillor. Having seen how council was and is today, there is need to set the record straight. When we got into this council, we got a shock in that inasmuch as we were supposed to kick-start servicing the city, the implementing departments were empty in terms of machinery and equipment to use.
From this point we agreed to start the capacitation process starting with waste management, water, engineering and road departments. Thus we bought 47 refuse trucks, re-trenched the city to remove rotten water and sewer pipes using cash provided by government.
Firle waterworks was also rehabilitated, but along the way government policy affected the ability of council to deliver as expected by residents.
The Ministry of Transport took over the collection of vehicle licence fees from council. Although we collected US$9 million, Zinara gave us only US$2 million yet roads alone require US$60 million to reseal.
Due to unemployment, which currently stands at 80%, increasing rates to cover the gap does not make sense.
Efforts to look for money elsewhere proved a daunting task as well; the image of this country as perceived by lenders, coupled with government involvement in local authorities didn’t help. I was part of the team from council that met with World Bank and IMF officials seeking money to improve water supply, but they would not give us.
Those who say we have not done anything are not telling the truth.
The mayor got US$5 million and is about to get US$20 million from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for housing. These are results of multiple efforts to secure cash and improve service.
People have downplayed the impact of bad central government policy on council; we inherited a bureaucracy which, according to law, doesn’t wholesomely report to us, which if fired for lack of competence, is returned to council by the Local Government Board.
This means some of the workers employed by us to play implementing roles are not loyal to our cause of service delivery. People have accused this council of intermittent water supply but have failed to look at the root cause namely, lack of proper investment and forward planning by the Zanu PF government since 1980.
To improve water supply, council needs US$1,2 billion; money which can’t be found by government or this council, let alone residents. The government has also affected our ability to provide clean water by not paying for water supplied to its departments, universities and army barracks, who are getting free water.
Lastly, people say we use lots of money for salaries; to some extent this is true but if all residents paid their dues, we would be within the set threshold. Salaries are obligatory costs; when we got into council our workers had running contracts which detail packages for senior staff. Local Government works in perpetuity; failure to honour such contracts will face litigation.
However, previous councils are responsible for some huge salaries and double appointments to senior positions. To correct it would need lots of money which council does not have.
Let me conclude by saying Mayor Muchadeyi Masunda and his councillors have put in measures that ensure service delivery wheels start to move and start moving now; it’s unfortunate credit will be given to future councils at the current one’s expense yet we have sown the seed.