via NewsDay Editorial: Lawlessness cripples Harare city council March 10, 2014
The city of Harare was at one time considered the best metropolis on the whole of the African continent. Its residents proudly dubbed it “The Sunshine City” on account of its cleanliness and its climate which was second to none in the world.
That it has now degenerated to become one of the most difficult capitals to live in is a sad story: most of its roads are beset with deep potholes; traffic lights rarely ever work; the streets are all strewn with litter and, tragically, the people are now no longer as friendly as they used to be — they are now characterised by a stiff upper lip!
Four million people live in the city and its immediate environs. All these people, in one way or another, contribute to the city’s purse, be it through the payment of rates or direct payments for services such as market stalls, parking fees and, generally, the commerce that takes place in the city hourly.
There are so many revenue streams that the City Council can tap into.
But two demons, inefficiency and corruption, seem to be hampering the collection of revenue and, thereby, impact massively on service delivery.
Interestingly, the City Fathers seem to be aware of all the impediments to efficient collection of revenue. Addressing a full council meeting last Friday Deputy Mayor Thomas Muzuva named a list of activities that could easily bring hundreds of thousands of dollars into the city’s coffers regularly.
He gave examples of Siya-so and Mupedzanhamo markets where 4 500 traders own stalls, each should pay $61 monthly to council. He talked about the 8 000 council houses whose tenants do not pay rentals. He talked of tolls fees paid at bus terminuses which never reached council coffers.
But his cry was that of a chimera in the wilderness. He said the city was not able to collect all this money because of the warlordism being practiced by some ruling party apparatchiks. He named one such warlord who collects $300 from the 4 500 stalls mentioned above apparently for his personal use. The same gangster is allegedly also collecting $4 000 every day from the 400 buses that use Mbare Musika bus terminus.
This points to a kind of State-approved lawlessness. It is obvious that Zanu PF is aware of these practices, and, equally obvious too, is that these individuals collecting all that money on a daily basis have godfathers in the ruling party who protect them and also benefit from these activities.
It would take a simple order from someone in government to stop this looting, but that leadership is not forthcoming. It is this kind of corruption that has prejudiced service delivery in the city. It is high time government did something about this lawlessness and corruption.
The seemingly robust way government has descended on parastatals and other government institutions in its fight against corruption should be applied to the Harare City Council, whose way of doing business impacts on the daily lives of four million people. Harare cannot be allowed to continue to decline into medieval times by commission and omission.