HARARE mayor Bernard Manyenyeni this week had words for Harare ratepayers expecting that council would get on top of a deplorable service delivery situation: not a chance!
Candid Comment with Stewart Chabwinja
That was the import of his responses during a parliamentary portfolio committee meeting in which he said council would not improve on service delivery as long as Local Government minister Ignatius Chombo interfered with the running of the local authority.
Manyenyeni moaned: “The role of the minister should be clearly defined because he cannot be a procurement officer, a personnel officer and other roles … The role of the mayor should also be clear because as long as we continue with this interference from the minister and multiple allegiances from management at Town House, we will not make any progress.”
Not that complaints against Chombo’s meddling and overbearing ways are anything new, they have become a grievance staple since the MDC-T took control of Harare and other cities after the 2000 elections.
There can be no denying there is political interference at Town House; the ruling Zanu PF party views the MDC-T’s continued dominance of Harare a stumbling block to its ambitions of unfettered political dominance.
Portraying the MDC-T-dominated councils as corrupt and inept suits its agenda of depicting the MDC-T as unfit to govern, never mind Zanu PF’s own calamitous governance record.
But council’s constant whingeing over “meddlesome” Chombo has assumed unhelpful proportions.
While ratepayers appreciate the daunting task confronting council, they are nonetheless much more interested in what action the city is taking to ensure, among other basic deliverables, roads are repaired, potable water is available, litter is cleared regularly and they don’t succumb to ancient diseases like cholera. Mere excuses will not suffice.
In any case, there are other impediments besides Chombo that council must tackle.
Corruption is one such, with a number of councillors and employees exposed for feathering their nests at the expense of ratepayers.
The bloated council wage bill is not helping matters, which is why council deserves applause for belatedly waking up to the cutting back imperative.
It is incumbent upon council to find ways of plugging revenue leaks in banking halls, the parking business, market stalls and Mbare bus terminus as the mayor alleged, so that funds are channelled towards service delivery.
Surely, Chombo, even if he is a meddler, is not responsible for all these problems? And if council cannot stand up to individuals (some named) making a killing by collecting its revenue, what are its chances of tackling Chombo and his impediments.
Instructively, Manyenyeni gave a hint of one of the sources of the non-delivery crunch when asked about the capacity of town clerk Tendai Mahachi to deliver.
“If service delivery is suffering, the leadership is questionable. So I may say that the problem is that the town clerk is educated and qualified, but something is not happening.”
From burst water pipes to potholed roads and dark streets, Harareans are familiar with council’s collection of ready excuses.
But excuses will not change matters; effective leadership and action will.