HARARE has not had a Town Clerk since the inglorious removal of Tendai Mahachi following the explosion of the Salary-gate scandal in 2015. After falsestarts, former Harare water director Hosiah Chisango was recently appointed the capital’s chief executive.
INTERVIEW: Richard Chidza
Chisango has wasted little time plunging headlong into a cholera crisis that, for the second time inside a decade, has exposed the city’s infrastructure decay. In this interview with NewsDay Senior Reporter Richard Chidza (ND), Chisango (HC) lays out his vision that could open a can of worms, beginning with a forensic audit. Below are excerpts:
ND: You came into office at the height of the cholera crisis, how have you settled in?
HC: It was, indeed, a difficult time. The critical issues I considered were to ensure the suspected cases are well managed in order to minimise the case fatality rates, and also to ensure that further spread of the outbreak is contained. We immediately sent a distress call to central government once cases were confirmed. The government reacted swiftly and together with various development partners, various interventions were put in place and this stabilised the situation. I wish to thank the government and the various development partners and agencies that came through to assist to contain the situation and also put in place mechanisms to assist the city revamp the water and sanitation infrastructure. The response of the residents of Harare was equally commendable.
ND: As Harare’s chief executive officer, what is your plan to return the city to its sunshine status?
HC: The transformation of the city to restore its sunshine status has already begun. My plan looks at six pillars.
First is the re-engineering of the organisational structure to make it more responsive and results-oriented. Through our Rapid Results Approach, we already work in teams with tight timeframes, each team chasing a particular goal.
Second and closely-related is the strengthening of the corporate culture. I want a culture of performance and results, a customer-focused culture. Our mid-term goal is to attain 75% customer satisfaction by year 2020. The teams are already undergoing various training programmes so that we all master the techniques of programme planning and implementation focusing on customer satisfaction and transformation of the city into a financially viable entity that can attract investment. Ultimately, we aim to construct a professional and accountable entity. The teams have already developed Standard Operating Procedures for all key activities of the city and these will be enforced for compliance. This will improve efficiency and effectiveness of our processes in service delivery.
The other is to have a systems organisation. I believe that all our operations should have adequately documented standard operating procedures so that we become a predictable organisation with integrity.
The third pillar is restoration of service delivery through complete rehabilitation and upgrading of the infrastructure. There is currently a big gap between the demand for services and the size of the infrastructure. This will require interactions with government, development partners and the private sector to put up optimal funding structures for infrastructure rehabilitation, upgrading and augmentation. On its part, the city needs to remove any perceived deficits in good governance so as to attract financing and technical partners, and I will also be seized with this element. The fourth pillar is opening the city for business in line with the President [Emmerson Mnangagwa]’s mantra of “Zimbabwe is open for business”. This is about continually streamlining our processes so that they are favourable for business and investments. We also intend to revamp our systems and procedures as well as waste-to-energy conversion business model that takes advantage of the growing population and the disposals that have thus far ironically created health problems for our city. I will be looking to pursue the waste-to-energy project for solid waste. We will generate electricity as well as produce organic fertilisers from wastewater. These plans will be underpinned by active and effective communication as well as effective civic participation by stakeholders.
ND: Harare spends over 80% of its revenues on wages and salaries; do you have a plan to try and reduce this ratio to channel more funds to capital projects?
HC: The city’s salaries and wages remain above the 30/70 threshold prescribed by government. The fortunate thing for us is that Harare is a rapidly growing city. My strategy would be to expand services to the new areas and this will widen the revenue base. There are processes already in place to improve employee productivity and this should also increase the council’s revenue. Other revenue streams besides property tax and user charges will also be fully exploited to increase the financial headroom and channel more resources to capital projects.
ND: To what extent has the decentralisation programme been implemented and what has been its successes and challenges?
HC: Our decentralisation programme is well on course. The city now has complete teams in the zones and districts.
Challenges have been in the equipping and tooling of the teams. We had hoped to have adequate equipment in the zones and districts, but shortages of foreign currency restricted our procurement of these items. This strategy will be fully implemented so that customers can access all services at the district offices. This will reduce congestion in the central business district in a major way.
ND: Could you explain to us the existence of companies like Sunshine Holdings, City Parking, the Quarry Company; how these have contributed to development in the city?
HC: Council, as part of its transformation, strategically separated the core and non-core activities. The core functions are those related to service delivery; that’s your water, roads, housing, health and other services. A business venture structure, focusing on running the non-core business of council, was then set up. The objective was to run these on a commercial basis; away from council bureaucracy and also attract funding and partnerships. Some of the businesses have not performed and council is seized with reviewing these. There has been progress with City Parking, who have since rehabilitated the parkades and some bays in Harare. We expect efficient collection of parking fees to enhance maintenance of the parking bays and parkades. The Harare Quarry was recently commercialised. The objective is that it runs efficiently, supplying all the requirements of the Highways Division for roads maintenance.
These are businesses wholly owned by council and can be dissolved if they do not perform.
ND: There have been reports that city fathers have been milking the capital of the much-needed funds through conferences that are held outside Harare, what is your plan to deal with this hole?
HC: There are conferences that we hold in conjunction with other local authorities or bodies, which when necessary, have to be funded. There are also professional conferences where our engineers, lawyers, accountants, auditors and other professionals attend to keep abreast with current trends in their various fields. To deal with these, my policy would be to have these planned and factored into the budget so that it goes through all necessary approvals. This will ensure that a reasonable budget is in place and monitored.
ND: Harare loses a lot of money through corruption and other leakages, is the city contemplating adopting ICTs?
HC: The city has effectively adopted ICTs. We are currently implementing automation of procurement from generation of requisitions to final payments so that all processes are monitored on the system. Through this, we can assure all stakeholders (that) incidents of leakages will be eliminated.
ND: In the past two decades, Harare has seen the emergence of haphazard settlements, how are you going to deal with this?
HC: The haphazard settlements are hotspots for disease outbreaks. We have settlements on wetlands, settlements in sewage farms and also on land reserved for other facilities. These, we have communicated to government and also approached the courts. We are happy to inform that some eviction orders are beginning to come through and those on undesignated places will be removed. We need an orderly city, which is well planned and safe to live in.
ND: Council has several joint-venture partnerships, including the refurbishment of Mabvazuva project, Augur investments and Copacabana terminus interchange. What is the status of these projects?
HC: The various joint ventures that council has gone into are meant to attract the much-needed private funding so as to develop the city. Most of these, however, remain on the drawing board. We are currently preparing a detailed prospectus of the projects that council will approach financiers with. We want to depart from a system where financiers approach council with their proposals and move to where these financiers have to fit in our vision of the city.
ND: Council has lost most labour cases brought by its former employees; what could be the reason?
HC: The main reason has been people being discharged without exhausting all procedures probably due to undue influence externally and internally. In a sober dispensation like we are in, we would advise council to ensure the grounds are solid before employees are just discharged. The law must be fully explored and followed.
ND: Does council have an inventory of its assets and to what extent is it benefiting from these, for example, Carter House in Mbare and the offices now used by Zanu PF as provincial headquarters?
HC: Council does have a full inventory of its assets. In the current clean-up of the city, all these spaces will be reclaimed. The city’s land and buildings will be occupied lawfully.
ND: Do you think there is need for a forensic audit so that you start on a clean slate?
HC: It is very necessary we do that. That would also bring us the much needed goodwill and close all deficits of good governance. Stakeholders and development partners would begin to trust the city and work with it towards our Vision 2025.
ND: Given the expanding vehicle population, Harare’s road network needs expansion, but it seems some of the space that would allow for expansion have been constructed on. How do you intend to get around this problem?
HC: Yes, our road network needs expansion. The water and wastewater infrastructure also need expansion. Our masterplan had reservations for these and like you highlighted some areas have been built upon. We are currently reviewing the Harare masterplan in line with the new development of the city. The Traffic and Transportation masterplan will inform the roads network. At this point, I can say that some of the structures will be removed.
ND: How much does Harare need for infrastructure development, and do you think it’s possible to raise such kind of funds?
HC: Harare is sitting on a 25-year infrastructure backlog. The road network and corresponding transport hubs are now inadequate. The water and sewerage infrastructure is aged and now inadequate. Funding is needed first to complete infrastructure rehabilitation and then to construct augmentation facilities. We have new settlements that have come up that need services infrastructure. Looking at the infrastructure and the regeneration of Mbare that the city is targeting, we are looking at figures in excess of $5 billion. This is funding required up to 2030. It is possible to raise such funding, starting with amounts for infrastructure rehabilitation and building capacity for the city to generate more revenue. Our investment packages for the projects allow for incremental implementation, so we can start with any amount and at the end, we will have a new Harare.