Zimbabwe regime politicking in urban areas creating vicious circle of worsening service delivery

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By Tendai Ruben Mbofana
IT is one thing holding our local authorities responsible for their actions — but, it is a completely different story when those in national government fail to hold residents accountable for their obligations towards their towns and cities, thereby, inculcating and reinforcing a culture of irresponsibility.

I have been one of those who have been highly vocal over the need for our local authorities to be transparent in their operations, and always be answerable to ratepayers — who foot the bill for their towns and cities’ operations to the extent of being critical of any signs of incompetence, mismanagement and corrupt tendencies.

In that, I will never relent.

However, it becomes extremely problematic when we have a central government — which is always finding fault with our urban local councils, which are predominantly opposition-led, regardless of whatever mitigatory factors will be at play on a case-by-case basis.

Indeed, it is imperative that any incidents of incompetence, mismanagement and corruption be confronted head-on, without fear or favour — but there is always a need to make a clear and unbiased distinction between what is a result of inaptitude in running the affairs of local councils and what can be faulted on external factors, beyond the “city fathers and mothers” control.

Politicking over matters of poor service delivery should be treated with care and caution, any attempts at grandstanding for political gain, have the potential of causing more harm than good to our country’s towns and
cities.

Let us face facts here!

As much as our small town of Redcliff, for instance, has not had any tap water for the past seven months, refuse remaining uncollected for what appears an eternity, and potholed streets being the norm rather than the exception — a perennial crisis that has bedevilled and dogged most of Zimbabwe’s urban areas for decades — a lion’s share of these challenges have been as a result of us residents, failing to fulfil our responsibilities in paying bills.

Honestly, what services do we expect from our respective urban councils, when a measly 20% of residents are paying for the services they would have already recieved — considering that water and other provisions in our local authorities are post-paid?

What sense is there when we scream and shout at the top of our voices — over the unavailability of water in our taps for months or even years, roads that appear like landmine fields, and heaps of garbage whose stink cover a two-kilometre radius when we owe councils tens of thousands of dollars?

Where do we expect the money to fix the plethora of problems to come from?

Similarly, as we have learnt from interactions with our “city fathers and mothers”, and a close scrutiny of the genesis of most of these seemingly unending nightmares — central government has been the main culprit for placing hurdles in the way of progress, to frustrate development in urban areas, and in the end setting residents against their local authorities.

Does this not sound like a government that has imposed sanctions on its own citizens — more like the ones the regime incessantly whines about which were imposed by the West?

Actually, why should this surprise us since the head of State himself alluded to this fact, during a Zanu PF campaign rally in Chitungwiza a few weeks ago. The President said central government would never listen to opposition parliamentary and local authority representatives.

It does not auger well for our urban areas, when we have a regime that piles all the blame for the miserable and untenable state of our towns and cities on our local councils — without holding residents accountable for non-payment of their dues to their respective municipalities.

If central government wants to be taken seriously as an honest broker in the pain and suffering we have endured in our urban areas, in addition to ensuring that our municipalities operate above board and are answerable to ratepayers, there is need for it to also hold residents accountable for their failure to pay for services rendered.

Turning a blind eye to this gross irresponsibility on the part of residents, only serves to worsen an already dire and catastrophic situation. It creates a vicious circle of lack of financial inflows to council coffers, leading to poor service provision, which results in those who have been faithfully meeting their obligations being discouraged making the situation even more dire.

All of us have a role to play within our various communities — as such, local authorities need to be seen to be operating transparently, while residents fulfil their responsibilities.

Only when we work together, and reach this common understanding, can we expect our towns and cities to revert to their glory days.

  • Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, and social commentator. Contact him on WhatsApp/Call: +263715667700 or email: mbofana.tendairuben73@gmail.com