Ratepayers have rights

via Ratepayers have the right to exercise options. NEWSDAY 19 June 2014 Editorial

SERVICE delivery remains a pressing issue throughout Zimbabwe. In fact, in Harare the situation appears to have deteriorated.

Even highbrow areas have little access to public services.

NewsDay Editorial

Harare has become a self-service city in which little is expected from the city council and many social and everyday services are obtained through unstructured local and private negotiations and sourcing within the private community.

Deficiencies in water and sanitation provision continue to provide some of the most striking manifestations of the city’s worsening infrastructure crisis.

Very few residential areas have piped water connections. For those lucky enough to have piped connections, the bane of their daily lives is the frequent water shortages and power outages. The majority depends on unprotected wells, boreholes, water tankers, illegal connections and street vendors.

This state of affairs is not idiosyncratic to Harare, as public services enterprises across the country still face importunate financial and organisational problems including gross inconsistency in access, ineffective collection of rates and limited investment in new facilities.

Regrettably, council has failed to provide reliable water supply and sanitation services prompting the Harare Residents’ Trust (HRT) to threaten to mobilise residents to boycott paying rates over lack of service delivery for the next three months in protest over lack of transparency and mismanagement of funds by top council officials.

HRT is also protesting the abuse of the $144 million Chinese water project fund, which the executive partly used to buy top-of-the-range vehicles without approval by city fathers.

The residents argue that an investigation must be undertaken to stop the rot at Town House.

It can be understood why city spokesperson Leslie Gwindi condemned the HRT move. It is compelling that council’s monopoly in service provision has resulted in lack of accountability and community ownership in the planning and implementation of infrastructure projects, poor management and sustainability, low quality and limited options.

It is high time that government considered the commercialisation of public services through privatisation to lead expansion schemes.

There is some evidence that asymmetric information plays an important role in public service delivery as it has been found that countries with better media coverage could have more efficient public service provision.

It appears another contributory factor to bad governance at Town House is lack of political will or political pull among the public. Because most citizens have never experienced functional public services, the impetus for political mobilisation to effect change is hardly existent. Hence, the HRT threats are justified in the circumstances if residents are to be taken seriously by politicians and bureaucrats alike.

It is true that this long-standing state of woeful service delivery in Harare cannot be allowed to go on.

It has given rise to a local mafia class that provides water and other services and regrettably these lords protect their market and high profits by sabotaging new government-sponsored infrastructure. Zimbabweans do not want to think that some top officials and politicians at Ivory Towers are involved.

Gwindi is very much aware that the status quo is not an option.

Harare must start thinking more broadly about working with external partners.


  • comment-avatar

    HRT seems to be the one organization that can make city officials sit up and take notice. Their threat to organize a rates boycott deserves attention.
    While no-one would want to cripple the city’s ability to provide services to residents, it can be argued that the present circumstance of non-accountability of city officials has already created a condition of zero service provision.
    When the city councillors demand accountability, the minister of local government, ignatius chombo, simply suspends the entire council en masse.
    This has lead to situations where the city residents have paid for a new airport road, but have received an embarrassing joke. Now the taxpayer, via Zinara, is required to bail out the contractors. Chombo himself is a direct beneficiary.
    Now we hear of the town clerk forging documents so that he can extend his term of office. It is noted that he has been in office since independence in 1980, and can hardly be recommended on any performance based criteria since the city has decayed so badly during his tenure.
    It therefore seems that the HRT call for a rates boycott therefore has merit.

  • comment-avatar
    munzwa 8 years ago

    The only way to go, council arrogance has no bounds..

  • comment-avatar
    Petal 8 years ago

    do these idiots who are running the show know it is the ratepayers rights because they are paying they are not squandering the money flying all over the world to singapore hospitals