Residents in Ward 8 (Newlands, Highlands, Chisipite and neighbouring suburbs) were frustrated by the pre-budget consultative meeting on 23 August. With little prior notice of or publicity for the meeting, few residents knew about it, and only thirty out of approximately 20,000 residents turned up to express their views on how rates money should be spent in 2017.
There were also glaring ethnic, gender, and age disparities, a further indication of poor publicity and engagement by the City. Councillors must demonstrate a pro-active approach to boost participation, otherwise such meeting lack legitimacy.
Key information was only supplied on the morning of the meeting, and residents were expected to participate in the budget planning process without sufficient notice or enough time to study how money was used in the previous year, expected future revenues, and expenditure priorities. The data reveals that, across Harare, there are irregularities and question marks regarding the implementation of the 10% ward retention scheme.
The low turnout from a traditionally strong resident body indicates the lack of a clear policy and enforcement of such on how councillors should be engaging with their constituents.
Resident Mike Davies motioned for the meeting to be adjourned, citing the unacceptable process and the lack of a sufficient quorum. He called for better online communication from CoH, in line with today’s highly digitalised world, suggesting that this would ensure that communication would cut across the age divide and improve participation.
Responding to the motion, former District Officer Funny Machipisa said council had only set aside a time frame of 30 days for consultations to be carried out in each ward therefore the postponement would work to their disadvantage. Machipisa said 30 was actually a good number of residents and adequate for the meeting to proceed.
Ward 8 councillor Christopher Mbanga defended his reach-out strategy, saying he notified residents of the meeting a week ahead. “I used emails to invite residents, and Mike (Davies) also helped in spreading the message,” he said.
Meanwhile, figures from Town House have shown some irregularitiesin how the 10% scheme is being implemented across the city’s 46 wards.
In particular, Dzivarasekwa, Kuwadzana Phase 3, and the Avenues areas have not received any money at all under the 10% retention scheme. Ward 8, by comparison, received $51,000 in 2015 and $22,500 in 2016. Some wards received funding in one year, but not the other.
Ward 39 (Dzivarasekwa)councillor, Gilbert Hadebe, blamed council administration for creating discord and accused them of ignoring the priorities identified by residents. “I have sent requisitions for various projects, but their records are distorted and they lack action in critical issues. They say that they are facing challenges in procuring what we need, but if you request boreholes or chairs they act fast because those are easy projects for them,” he said.
Kuwadzana Phase 3 councillor Girisoti Mandere concurred with Hadebe that certain projects are given preference. “In my ward, residents needed market stalls. We did everything from quantifying what was required to getting drawings done, and presented our papers for funds to be released, but up to now we haven’t received a cent. We are forced to change projects from what we need to what we know they are ready to fund, like boreholes. I am currently working with the District Officer in my ward to ascertain how much exactly we are owed since the scheme started so that we work out how to spend it,” he said.
Released data also revealed that Harare’s debtors are currently owing $511 million – $207m from commercial rates, $204m residential, $90m government, and $26m other. Councillor Mbanga attributed these vast sums to the prevailing macroeconomic environment.