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Editorial Comment: Engagement key to development

Editorial Comment

The initiative by Chitungwiza’s new mayor Lawrence Maiko to meet residents to get feedback on issues to do with service delivery and to share views on developments in the town is a commendable move.

The mayor says he has embarked on this meet-the-people programme as a way to build trust and confidence with residents. This is a good idea which must be encouraged as it provides a platform for residents to air their grievances to the people that are in charge of the conditions that they live in.

Chitungwiza has stood out like a sore thumb in terms of virtual absence of service delivery, corruption and mismanagement. Previous mayors and their councils and management have not shown much effort in correcting things and have been provocatively arrogant in their responses to people’s complaints.

Workers have been forced to work without pay while the city has been known for its perpetually broken sewer system and the attendant acrid smell that has become the identity of this sprawling town.

The dialogue that Maiko has begun is a good start at showing concern, but it should be supported by action. The mayor must stamp his foot against corruption which has been the source of service delivery failure and general decay of the municipality.

Proper service delivery cannot be expected from disgruntled workers who are finding it difficult to survive, feed their families or to buy soap in order to bathe before going to work. Mayor Maiko must ensure that management handles the millions of dollars collected from ratepayers properly and payment of wages must not be relegated to the bottom of the list of priorities.

The most basic function of any municipality is to provide water for its people. A municipality that fails to perform this statutory and constitutional obligation of providing uncontaminated and potable water to its citizens has no justification for its existence —none at all.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa spoke about the issue of water in Chitungwiza during his recent tour of the town and invited the mayor to bring the problem to his office.

Although the president made a curious remark to the effect that he was not aware of the source of Chitungwiza’s water problems, given the fact that he has been in government half his entire life, the mayor should take up Mnangagwa on his invitation and bring back to the people the feedback therefrom.

Residents of Chitungwiza have, for years, been forced to live with a routine where they receive water once per week for about five hours only, usually late in the night. The situation is worse now with the obtaining power load-shedding.

This is the position that the mayor must take to the president and tell him that Chitungwiza does not have its own water sources and depends on Harare. He should also tell the president that the Muda Dam project, which could be Chitungwiza’s permanent water solution, has been on paper for over 15 years.

We once again applaud the mayor’s meet-the-people initiative as a good beginning of genuine efforts at correcting wrongs that have impeded development and brought social and health challenges to the millions of people of Chitungwiza.

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