The recent demolition of the so-called illegal car sales calls into question the calibre of managers at Town House.
Column by Davison Maruziva
The destruction was not the only alternative open for the City of Harare to pursue in dealing with the development and current attempts to enlist the assistance of the victims is cynical. That’s what should have happened in the first place!
It is common cause that Harare City Council is desperately short of revenue.
But unfortunately, as is too often the case, the council authorities did not see an opportunity to create a regular revenue stream that could have impacted positively on council finances.
It is ironic that at a time when the common war cry is empowerment council should have gone “Murambatsvina style” in victimising people who were trying to earn an honest living.
The open spaces that have been “invaded” by people conducting the business of selling cars was not bringing any revenue to the City Council and the mushrooming of car sales should have rightly been treated as one way of generating additional revenue.
The City Council could have gone round fining the “illegal” car sales owners and at the same time helping them regularise their status.
If it is correct that there are more than 200 operators at say $500 in monthly rentals for space, council could easily be collecting an estimated $100 000 a month.
Surely, that could go a long way in alleviating its finances.
There is also the case of jobs that were created by operating car sales and in some cases this extended to enhancement of security of properties adjacent or near to these car sales as security details were hired to look after the vehicles on sale.
There is a precedent of businesses that have been put up without prior planning approval, but whose status was subsequently regularised.
It is amazing that there isn’t enough institutional memory in council to recall these precedents.
We know of at least three that immediately come to mind. So it is difficult to understand that ratepayers and residents of the capital are paying so much to sustain such underperforming managers.
But where are the councillors in all this? Who do they represent, if at all they do?
Because of the appallingly tardy performance by the City managers, we believe it is time to subject aspiring managers to a confirmation process, presided over by business and civic society leaders with a track record of deliverables.
This way, councils throughout the country will get managers that are likely to perform better than the overpaid mediocrity we have running our local authorities.
In respect of the MDC-T, it is astonishing that no one has sought to benefit from Engineer Elias Mudzuri’s experience in running the City of Harare.
Zanu PF panicked that if he was allowed more time in office he would demonstrate better and bright, ideas in providing leadership to management of the council.
One would, therefore, have thought that the MDC-T would have assigned him to work specifically with local authorities where they are in a majority.
We do not believe that it is the fault of the car sales operators that there is only one legally registered car sales business. Where was council when the first few car sales went up?
Why did it allow the situation to get out of hand before resorting to knee-jerk reaction? There is a clear case of collusion and corruption in the city council which encouraged the proliferation of these car sales.
Someone was benefitting. But that is a subject for investigation, or so the council wants us to believe.
If the council genuinely wanted to investigate, one of the best approaches would have been to establish how the operators of the car sales were authorised to conduct their business, who by and when. Council would have obtained clearer evidence of underhand dealings than it ever is likely to now.
With better legal advice there is a case for a class action against the council by operators of the car lots that were demolished.
We need to have people who are guided by how they can best serve the residents of their cities and towns instead of unrepentant vindictiveness.
The council must regularise the car sales, but more important, it must get its act together and improve service delivery.
It must also manage the flow of traffic in Harare which is getting worse by the day, rush hour or not. There is an urgent need to bring sanity to the streets because evidently, the one-way streets have not brought about the desired impact.
Maruziva is the head of Alpha Media Holdings Magazine Division.