Urban councils have over the years been dogged by poor service delivery, mismanagement and corruption partly due to the calibre of elected officials. The Nelson Chamisa-led MDC Alliance won the majority wards in towns and cities across the country in the just-ended polls and is now in the process of identifying mayors to run these councils. We challenge the alliance to, this time around, appoint high calibre mayors who have the technical expertise and intelligence to turn around the fortunes of the majority of our urban centres which are now a pale shadow of their former selves.
Chamisa has already set-up an 18-member committee to interview prospective candidates to lead the 23 urban councils he won and it is being led by former Mufakose MP, Paurina Mupariwa and includes residents’ associations, local government experts and senior MDC Alliance members.
The mayoral candidates were reportedly tested on their understanding of local governance issues, their vision to turn around the city’s fortunes and improve service delivery. In Mutare, at least 10 newly-elected MDC Alliance councillors last week submitted their CVs and went through interviews for the mayoral post.
Harare has also interviewed five councillors for the mayoral post, including party founding member Ian Makone, alliance partner Jacob Mafume and Joseph Kunashe from Budiriro.
Under the devolved system, the mayors of Harare and Bulawayo are expected to chair the two metropolitan councils. What this means is that the mayors, unlike in the past, now have added responsibilities and the MDC Alliance should make sure that its selection process is done on merit rather than links to particular leaders.
In recent years, the opposition has been losing grip of its hold on urban voters because the quality of some of its councillors and mayors were questionable. The party’s representatives in councils were accused of corruption and service delivery had been deteriorating, thanks to the free-falling economy at the hands of Zanu PF.
Chamisa has rekindled the fires of opposition politics and the party’s selection of mayors should be well-calculated to ensure its hold on urban voters ramains solid. A rigorous test should be made to ensure the candidates selected to fill those positions have proven records and are of high integrity.
The MDC Alliance calls itself the party of excellence and its management of local authorities should validate such a claim.
There is need for the party to select strong characters who will rein in errant councillors, whose sole mission to Town House is self-enrichment at the expense to service delivery.
Gone are the days when people are judged by simply belonging to the party, residents are now well-informed and they will certainly judge the party according to the performance of its representatives.
Crises like the outbreak of typhoid and cholera should be a thing of the past.