Augustine Mukaro/Loughty Dube<盰͏녀춬瘡㚀ѾڀѾ>盰͏녀춬
HARARE and Bulawayo have one thing in common. The opposition Movement for Democratic Change runs them both. But there the comparison stops. There is a sharp contrast in the fortunes of the two cities.
Service delivery in Harare has continued to deteriorate amid accusations by the MDC that there is too much government interference. Bulawayo, on the other hand, has continued to manifest itself as a well-run city, upholding a legacy dating back to colonial times.
Bulawayo executive mayor Japhet Ndabeni-Ncube says the distance between Bulawayo and Harare has helped him run the country’s second largest city without too much political interference from the government and the ruling Zanu PF.
Ndabeni-Ncube told the Zimbabwe Independent that unlike the scenario in Harare where Local Government minister Ignatius Chombo has been meddling in the day-to-day running of the capital, Bulawayo has been spared the unnecessary attention of the minister.
Chombo in April suspended Harare executive mayor Elias Mudzuri on allegations of corruption and failing to effectively run the city.
“It is a different thing in Bulawayo and I feel that the long distance between Harare and Bulawayo has helped me to run the city without much interference from Chombo and the Zanu PF leadership,” said Ndabeni-Ncube.
He said in most instances there were cordial working relations between the MDC and Zanu PF councillors on civic matters.
“When it comes to council matters I have been impressed by the maturity of both Zanu PF and MDC councillors when debating important civic issues that contribute to the growth of the city,” he said.
Bulawayo council has 29 councillors out of which 11 are MDC, 16 Zanu PF and two independents.
However, the MDC chief whip in council, Charles Mpofu, said there have been attempts by Chombo to give directives on how the city should be administered but this has been defeated by the resolve of councillors from both the MDC and Zanu PF.
“Chombo has tried in the past to give directives to the council to confuse the whole situation but this has never worked as councillors are clear on what residents want,” Mpofu said.
He said in some instances the ministry has insisted on scrutinising council minutes but said the government has also failed to wrest control that way.
“Chombo tried to weaken council through scrutinising our minutes and through attempts to introduce a Zanu PF-appointed governor and to demarcate the city into districts in a bid to water down the strength of council but this has all failed,” Mpofu said.
With the change of administration in Harare last year, it was envisaged that service delivery would improve. Immediately after his election into office Mudzuri set about filling potholes and resurfacing roads. Observers say this turned out to be a cosmetic change as problems have continued to mount. The old ghosts of misrule personified by first executive mayor Solomon Tawengwa have continued to haunt the city.
The inventory of problems from the Tawengwa era has remained unresolved.
Refuse collection has remained problematic, the streets of Harare have become dirtier, and illegal vending and squatting in the CBD has increased. The quality of potable water has degenerated, the sewerage system in high density areas appears to work in reverse, robots are poorly sequenced or do not work at all while street lighting has remained patchy in all suburbs.
Harare has continued to deteriorate as central government interferes with each and every initiative taken by the new council to improve the situation, councillors said this week.
The MDC-dominated council has blamed their failure to bring back Harare’s “Sunshine City” status squarely on government’s damaging interference.
“First, there were directives that we should refer all matters concerning finance and human resources to central government for scrutiny before they can be implemented.
“The directives were imposed to thwart council’s efforts to carry out a staff audit after the Elijah Chanakira commission recruited over 600 employees to non-existent posts just before the March 2002 election,” one councillor said.
He said council’s relationship with central government has not given them room to implement initiatives independently.
“We are the only city that has been denied borrowing powers by the central government.
“What’s the justification for that move?” the councillor said. Everything is marred by power politics, with central government ensuring that council heads for doom.”
The councillor said central government was interfering with each every move they took to improve things.
Last year government ordered them to reinstate top council officials suspended on allegations of incompetence and corruption even before their hearings. Government ordered council to reinstate public relations manager Leslie Gwindi, town clerk Nomutsa Chideya, and treasury department officials.
Councillor Fani Munengami, an executive committee member, said council had done its best to keep the crumbling infrastructure functioning despite government’s efforts to make their job impossible.
“When we came into office, council had suspended all capital projects over the past three years when the Chanakira commission was running the affairs of the city,” Munengami said.
“The new council ended up diverting funds from the rates account to finance capital development and the health sector.
“Last year we used $700 million to resurface roads in and around the city from the rates account,” he said. “We have commissioned Morton Jeffery Waterworks pumps, increasing water-pumping capacity. On road network we have built a roundabout along Bulawayo Road in the Warren Park area, a footbridge linking Kuwadzana extension to the old Kuwadzana suburb and we have also done new tower-lights for the Budiriro area.
“Recently we finished computerisation of the city treasury department. We have also bought 12 ambulances to revive our health delivery system and 24 trucks including refuse collection vehicles,” Munengami said.
He said government was trying to frustrate council operations by suspending the mayor and barring consultative meetings with residents.
“Though we do not recognise the suspension of the mayor, it has disturbed us in one way or the other. How does government expect us to communicate with stakeholders when it has barred us from carrying out consultative meetings?” questioned Munengami.
“Government should not accuse us of not performing because we have submitted our turnaround strategic plan, which it turned down on three occasions,” he said.
Another clash between Harare City Council and government is increasingly becoming inevitable as council plans to effect a $60 billion supplementary budget next month.
The implementation of the supplementary budget is likely to provide ammunition to Chombo in his bid to remove Mudzuri from office.
Council said the supplementary budget had become inevitable because of the continued weakening of local currency, recent fuel increases and skyrocketing inflation.
Harare acting mayor Dr Christopher Mushonga last week said when council approved its annual budget in October 2002, government had indicated that it was not interested in devaluing the dollar and inflation was around 144%. Government proceeded to devalue the dollar in February. Inflation has now reached Weimar proportions at 269,2%.
“Government devalued the dollar from $55 to $824 to the US dollar, which is a 1 398% increase, thus inevitably putting our budget off balance,” Mushonga said.
“Water treatment chemicals are largely imported and as such this has the effect of increasing the cost of purification of water by 15 times from the budgeted $2,5 billion to $27,5 billion.”
Mushonga said the expenditure at the time the budget was approved was around $31 billion but has since jumped to $93,5 billion creating a funding shortfall of approximately $59,5 billion.
“It is therefore necessary to revise the budget in order to sustain the increased unforeseen costs, and this inevitably means ultimately passing some of the costs to the ratepayers and consumers.”
Combined Harare Residents Association chairman Mike Davis said council had managed to bring signs of hope to the city under very difficult conditions. “Refuse collection initially improved until the beginning of this year when the fuel situation worsened. Council’s idea to out source refuse collection to more players would have improved the situation if the contracts had been taken up by capable contractors.”