Councils short-changing ratepayers

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The-picture-colleague-shows-uncollected-garbage-along-Bank-Street-in-Harare,-yesterday

FOR a period stretching over 20 years, service delivery in cities, towns and even rural communities has collapsed, underpinned by unchecked plunder and theft by those voted into public office by the residents.

Where drains used to flow through, sweeping away runoff water during rainy seasons, they have been replaced by swaths of grasslands, which are being nourished by stinking sewerage gushing everywhere.

One needs to visit towns and cities like Chitungwiza, Harare, Gweru, and even Gokwe, Chipinge or Beitbridge, to learn what it means when experts talk about total leadership failure.

Recreational parks have been overrun by forests, and in some cases, parcelled out to politicians, their children or connections to build houses. Increasingly, Zimbabweans are getting accustomed to living side by side with uncollected garbage and their own waste.

Their right to living in safe environments are being violated daily, but they have nowhere to complain.

Everything is falling apart — our roads, once an African pride at independence in 1980, have turned into killing grounds as accidents mount due to potholes.

Of course, they can cite central government interference to mask their incompetence, but cannot wish away the endemic corruption that has manifested itself in almost all local authorities, with some of the councillors amassing large swathes of land to themselves at the expense of the residents they are supposed to serve.

Bridges have been swept away, dilapidated schools and clinics have sprouted everywhere and schoolchildren literally learn under scorching heat in some areas.

Residents themselves have not been spared by a governance rot that has sparked off deadly de-industrialisation and a damaging economic crisis.

The result has been a mix of apathy in paying rates to municipalities.

The municipalities know this — they also know that politically-connected bigwigs running local authorities are living lavishly, feeding off residents’ sweat at the expense of service delivery.

But they are determined to continue looting while sending out threats and unjustified demands from their victims. It is common cause that when it comes to the plunder of national resources, it is here where successive Zanu PF administrations and the successive opposition MDC councils have unity of purpose for their own good.

But the residents are waking up.

This is why towns like Gwanda, which this week threatened legal action against residents, have faced perpetual troubles.

Debts in most municipalities are growing, and unless looters stop their transgressions, and authorities sort out the mess that they have created, no amount of threats will drive back ratepayers to municipal offices.

The reason is simple: For ratepayers to honour their obligations, they need guarantees of seamless service delivery.

For residents to pay rates, they must be confident that their money would be put to good use.

It is within the power of the government and its collapsing local authorities to get things right.

If they don’t act, Zimbabwe can kiss goodbye to reaching the high quality standards of life that they enjoyed before the era of extravagance kicked in.

Otherwise, vision 2030 might remain just that —a pipedream.