By Kundai Marunya

IT is rare to find opposition-controlled urban councils throwing their weight on developmental issues instigated by the central Government.

In many cases, urban councils have openly fought the Government when it comes to measures that address service delivery issues.

This is at a time when urban areas are in a dire state, failing to avail the basic needs of residents, including refuse collection, supply of potable water and adequate sewer infrastructure.

Since their domination of urban councils over two decades ago, standards of living in towns and cities have deteriorated resulting in mundane diseases such as cholera and typhoid becoming a perennial problem.

The existing infrastructure is failing to accommodate an ever expanding population, a clear indication of poor planning.

A dire state of urban centres compelled President Emmerson Mnangagwa to formulate a blueprint titled: ‘Call to Action — No Compromise to Service Delivery’ which was launched late last year.

Kariba Municipality is one of the urban councils that has endorsed the document and committed to work towards implementing its tenets in line with Vision 2030.

Speaking on the side-lines of a workshop on unpacking the blueprint at Mandel Training Centre in Harare on Wednesday, Mayor of Kariba Clr Ralph Maonei (pictured) said the blueprint addresses key areas in service delivery.

“We take note of the key areas the blueprint seeks to address, one of which being revenue collection, which has been a major problem for us,” said Clr Maonei.

“We are currently owed ZW$20 billion by residents while we owe about ZW$14 billion, so you can see that is we get whatever we are owed we can settle our debts.

“The issue of compliance to laws is an important thing brought forward by the blueprint. There is also the issue of coming up with a master plan which is a key component in planning ahead.”

Clr Maonei said the blueprint can be implemented if there is political will.

“Generally, the blueprint itself is a very good document, obviously coupled with enough support from the central Government and a collective political permission of the citizens and those in government, it can deliver for us cities that are meaningful,” he said.

“It can deliver for us, particularly as Kariba, a municipality that speaks to the needs of the residents and basic services.”

Being a resort town, Kariba is expected to maintain high standards in service delivery, to rival tourism destinations across the globe.

Its standards mirror the image of the country.

Clr Maonei said the blueprint pushes them to plan ahead, in line with government’s vision 2030.

“We are already doing well in terms of roads, water and a number of other services but we know we should be able to plan for the future as well,” he added.

“We can’t be able to sustain a future given the growth that we are looking at; we can’t support the future with what we have right now.

“The blueprint gives us a way of preparing for that future. We are hoping that as we continue to unpack it, we will be able to locate what we can then do, coming up with a localised strategy.”

Municipality of Kariba Town Clerk Richard Mhoti (pictured) supported Clr Maonei’s sentiments of the service delivery blueprint.

This is an indicator on unity of purpose which is in contradiction what had become ‘norm’ — council employees fighting with elected officials.

This is largely because council employees have remained loyal to government in support of development agendas while opposition politicians often try to undermine central Government at the expense of citizens.

Mhoti said the blueprint brings forth pertinent issues in governance.

“The blueprint provides visionary leadership and good guidance to local authorities on the roadmap for local authorities to recover and provide better services to communities that they serve,” he said.

“I’m particularly drawn to areas that need urgent attention; which are revenue collection and good governance, also the relationship between the municipality and the residents.

“These are issues that need to be addressed by the Municipality of Kariba and local authorities in general. 

“Without revenue collection, we can be very limited in service delivery while without the participation of the community that we serve, again we will achieve very little.”

Mhoti said Kariba Municipality would engage residents on tailor-made agreements to recover debts.

“The first thing we are going to do is engage the community on the monies that are due to the municipality,” he said. 

“We need to secure an agreement on how we can be paid, and going forward, how municipal bills should be treated.”

Residents in Kariba pay an average of US$35 per household in council bills per month while the amount goes up to an equivalen  of US$150 in low density suburbs.

An average of 64 percent of the bills are paid on monthly basis. It was general consensus that there is need for a more aggressive approach in revenue collection, given that the majority residents are affording luxuries such as paying DSTV premiums and expensive internet cellular service providers. It would seem most residents are deliberately not paying their bills in expectation of Government directives on debt cancellation as was the case in 2013.

Councillors are also complacent in non-compliance of revenue collection as the issue is often politicised. Speaking at the same workshop, Deputy Director of Urban Planning in the Ministry of Local Government and Public Works Morgen Hungwe said Councillors should desist from politicising revenue collection.

“When we come to decisions that bills should be paid, some of the Councillors are found to be in opposition, advocating lower charges because they fail to shed off politics to assume leadership roles that are sustainable,”, said Hungwe.

“We can’t talk of vision 2030 or attaining an upper-middle income economy if we fail to pay our bills.

“Nyika inovakwa nevene vayo, kana ichivakwa ne vene vayo, inoshandirwa nevene vayo.

“The people of Kariba need to pay their dues and others, including the Government through various programmes such as devolution funds and ZINARA remittances will come in and support.”

All local authorities are expected to familiarise themselves with the service delivery blueprint and come up with a master plan by June. 

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Local Government and Public Works has rejected budgets for Hwange Local Board and City of Harare for failing to comply with the service delivery blueprint.

In a statement, the Ministry said Harare did not align its budget to the blueprint in the areas of audit, debts, estate funds, business interests, staffing levels, water and sanitation, among others.

“Harare City Council does not have functional computer-based organisational system (ERP- Enterprise Resource Planning) and this has contributed greatly to low revenue collection,” reads the statement.

“The Parliament of Zimbabwe and Auditor-General’s recommendations to reinstate the previous ERP have not been complied with.

“Council has continuously failed to procure an ERP for the past five years”.

The Ministry said despite numerous calls, Harare had failed to include an acquisition of ERP in their budget. Harare City Council had also failed to have an external auditor go through their accounts on an annual basis in violation of Section 49 of the Financial Management Act.

The statement raises serious issues that have resulted in extremely poor service delivery that have negatively affected lives of ratepayers in the capital. The budget is also said not to reflect any solutions to serious and recurring issues of water and sanitation, while serious overstaffing is reflected in the document.

There is also no reflection of income from Council’s many businesses, something that also necessitates the abandoned external audit.

Another c0ncern raised by the Ministry is the lack of discussion on pertinent issues affecting Council and service delivery during the first five Council meetings.

“Unless the above issues are addressed, in terms of the law and ‘Call to Action Blueprint launched by His Excellency, the President, the Ministry of Local Government and Public Works is not in a position to approve the budget,” reads the statement.


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