BY HARRIET CHIKANDIWA
CONTINUED government interference in Harare City Council (HCC) affairs has crippled the local authority’s capacity to improve infrastructure, mayor Jacob Mafume has said.
This follows President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s call for local authorities to improve infrastructure development at a time the government is being accused of meddling in the affairs of local authorities across the country.
“I exhort the City of Harare to improve the infrastructure along development corridors, while at the same time enhancing access to water, refuse collection and upgrading the road network, among others,” Mnangagwa said at the official opening of Highlands Park last week.
Mafume, however, said local authorities were hamstrung by government interference.
“We cannot improve in infrastructure development as Harare because they have taken all the revenue streams that belong to the City of Harare. Even on devolution funds, they gave ZWL$73 million out of the budget exceeding ZWL$2 billion.
“The little money we have, they are allocating that money on buying expensive fire trucks and expensive contracts that will not help the City. Budget allocation should come to the City so that we prioritise infrastructure. We should have a situation where the City sets up the priorities,” Mafume said.
Harare Residents Trust director Precious Shumba said Mnangagwa’s call should come with adequate funding for local authorities.
“The President’s call for the improvement of infrastructure is important. However, for this to happen, local authorities including the City of Harare should be allocated significant grants to undertake major infrastructural development projects.
“For road projects, the City of Harare should be more transparent in the utilisation of City Parking revenues which should be used in upgrading road and parking infrastructure in the central business district,” Shumba said.
Shumba said the Zimbabwe National Roads Administration (Zinara) should develop a scientific and objective formula for the disbursement of road funds to local authorities.
“Without a predictable system of funds’ disbursements to local authorities, repair and upgrade of roads by local authorities will remain a mirage. It is also important to note that the local authorities have not been transparent in the utilisation of other revenues that they generate. Lack of transparency is always a major challenge in the implementation of infrastructure development projects,” Shumba added.
Combined Harare Residents Association programmes manager Reuben Akili said the City of Harare needs to improve infrastructure development, but these were huge capital projects that could not be financed with minimal resources.
“We expect devolution funds’ provided in section 301 of the Constitution to finance such huge capital projects. However, it is disturbing that off late, the government through the Minister of Local Government has been setting priorities and dictating how these funds should be used to the extent of suggesting where to buy or purchase,” Akili said.
“This is not in tandem with the principles of devolution provided in section 264 of the Constitution. Again the call by the President comes at a time when the local authority is starving of devolution funds and if we look at the allocation against the disbursements, it is worrying.”