It is one thing holding our local authorities answerable for their deed and misdeeds – but, it is a completely different story when those in national government fail to similarly hold residents accountable in their obligations towards their towns and cities, thereby, inculcating and reinforcing a sense of irresponsibility.
I have been one of those who have been highly vocal over the need for our local authorities to be unreservedly 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 unapologetically critical of any signs of incompetence, mismanagement, and corrupt tendencies.
In that, I will never relent.
However, it becomes extremely problematic and troublesome when we have a central government – whose propensity for always finding fault with our urban local councils, which are predominantly opposition-led, regardless of whatever mitigatory factors would be at play on a case-on-case basis – borders on compulsive obsession.
Indeed, it is undeniably imperative that any incidents of incompetence, mismanagement and corruption be confronted head-on, without fear or favor – 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 much care and caution – as, any attempts at grandstanding for shallow political objectives, has the unenviable potential of causing more harm than good for 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 bedeviled 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, who have failed to fulfill our responsibilities in paying bills owing.
Honestly, what services are we to expect from our respective urban councils, when a measly 20% of residents are the only ones bothered enough in paying for the services they would have already consumed – considering that, water and other provisions in our local authorities are post-paid?
What sense is there when we scream and shouts on top of the highest mountains – over the non-availability of water in our taps for months or even years, roads that appear like exploded landmine fields, and heaps of garbage whose stink reach a two-kilometer radius – when our own bills are in arrears in the 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 – the central government has been the main culprit in placing endless hurdles along the way of any progress, as a ploy to frustrate development in urban areas, and at the end, enrage residents against their local authorities.
Does this not sound like a government that has imposed sanctions against its own citizens – more in the same mould as how the same regime incessantly whines and moans over so-called “economic sanctions imposed by the West”?
Actually, why should this surprise us – since, the head of state himself alluded to this fact, during a ruling ZANU PF party campaign rally in Chitungwiza a few weeks ago, when he issued an ominous warning to the effect that, the central government would never listen to any elected opposition parliamentary and local authority representatives.
Therefore, it does not auger well for our urban areas, when we have a regime that would rather pile all the blame for the miserable and untenable state of our towns and cities on our local councils – without ever bothering to also hold residents accountable for their non-payment of their dues to their respective municipalities.
If the central government wanted to be taken seriously as an honest broker in the pain and suffering we have endured in our urban areas – then, in addition to ensuring that our municipalities operated above board and were answerable to their ratepayers – there was need for them to also hold residents accountable for their failure to pay for the services rendered.
This deliberate turning of a blind eye to this gross irresponsibility on our part as residents, only serves to worsen the already dire and catastrophic situation – as it creates a vicious circle of lack of financial inflows into council coffers, leading to poor or total non-provision of services, which then results in those who have been faithfully meeting their obligations being discouraged, and thereby ceasing their own payments…only making conditions even more terrible.
All of us have a role to play within our various communities – as such, local authorities need to be seen to be operating transparently, whilst residents should be fulfilling their responsibilities.
Only when we work together, and reach this common understanding, can we expect our towns and cities to revert to their glorious and glamorous former selves.
© Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, and social commentator. Please feel free to contact him on WhatsApp/Call: +263715667700 / +263782283975, or Calls Only: +263788897936 / +263733399640, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org