NEW Local Government minister Saviour Kasukuwere has, as has become custom, hit the ground running, vowing to end the “lawlessness” and chaos in Harare and all other local authorities.
Candid Comment Stewart Chabwinja
Bubbling with his usual oomph, no sooner had former Environment minister Kasukuwere assumed his new portfolio than he issued threats to define his agenda: If the city fathers, especially in Harare, do not clean up the mess brought about by vendors I will clean up Town House, he warned.
While Kasukuwere’s mr-fix-it enthusiasm is commendable as no-one wants the deterioration of former Sunshine City — Harare — to continue, he has his work more than cut out for him. He will superintend over local authorities struggling to provide even the most basic of services, including potable water, street lighting and garbage removal — a veritable poisoned chalice, many would argue, as the problems appear insurmountable in the short-to-medium term.
It will take more than menacing threats to solve, nay merely ameliorate the daunting challenges facing Harare and other councils. The problems are multifaceted, to a large extent mirroring the economic rot tormenting the country. The mess is hardly an overnight phenomenon; the choking of Harare’s streets by hordes of vendors, some motorised, has been a gradual process quite recently expedited by quickening company closures.
It is a problem Zanu PF is however alive to as it promised more than two million jobs in its election manifesto, but instead, the unemployment rate has since increased to an estimated over 85% as the ruling party gropes in the dark over an economic rescue.
Thus what is required is a holistic approach to a complex problem inextricably linked to the country’s plunging economic fortunes.
And part of that strategy behoves Kasukuwere to ditch his belligerent I’ll-take-no-prisoners-approach that became his hallmark as Indigenisation minister, for a more pragmatic and progressive attitude anchored in consultation rather than political expediency.
The fear, as detailed elsewhere in this issue, is that Zanu PF political commissar Kasukuwere — with an eye on 2018 general elections — will abuse his office by placing MDC-T led local authorities, particularly Harare and other major municipalities, under siege as part of a grand plan to reclaim urban municipalities in the next polls. Zanu PF is desperate to claw back its political presence in urban areas which had become opposition strongholds since the MDC’s formation in 1999.
While maladministration and corruption are partly to blame for Harare’s service delivery predicament, the populist decision by Kasukuwere’s predecessor Ignatius Chombo to write off residents’ rate debts to local authorities on the eve of the 2013 general elections has not helped matters as unemployed residents are still failing to pay up because they lack the wherewithal.
The arrest of vendors in the CBD yesterday after violent clashes with municipal police suggests the situation is a political powder keg capable of exploding out of control, hence the need for a tactful rather than an adversarial approach which will not pay dividends. Kasukuwere must learn to listen.