Residents in Harare have welcomed plans by the local authority to return administrative powers to district offices, claiming this would make the solving of service delivery issues easier by bringing the two parties closer together, as they will work at a community level.
Critics say the current set up is overly bureaucratic and concentrated at Town House, meaning residents have to spend more time and effort to escalate service delivery issues.
This comes after Harare mayor, Councillor Bernard Manyenyeni, announced that he was in consultation with the Local Government and National Housing Minister, Saviour Kasukuwere, on service delivery issues. Manyenyeni said they had agreed to return to the old, decentralised system.
The mayor said the eight district offices they identified for decentralisation will retain 25 percent of all revenue collected in each respective area and the money will be used in their operations.
As part of the duties of district office officials, they will have to manage complaints from residents, and host regular public meetings to hear concerns from the communities they serve.
Resident, Takunda Chitau, says the move by the local authority is welcome, as it will ensure that council is able to attend to issues more quickly, and that complaints would be better understood as they would be made in the vicinity of the issue.
“Many problems befalling the city are a result of absent officials who are out of touch with their communities. Imagine an official who resides in Gunhill or Borrowdale and drives everyday to and from Town House. If you visit him at those high offices and try to tell the problem of sewage bursts or garbage in Mbare or Warren Park, such people may not feel the intensity of the problems which are not prevalent in their own areas,” he said.
Another resident, Gracious Matope, echoed the same sentiments, but suggested that the 25% rates allocation should be higher.
“This is a wonderful thing to do, but I think the 25 percent to be retained at each one of the eight districts is not enough, at least more than 50 percent could have been meaningful. This takes into cognisance that district offices will be expected to deal with all issues — be it burst pipes, sewer, road repairs, and waste removal,” she said.
Harare Residents Trust (HRT) said that while the move was noble, they were sceptical that council would succeed in implementing it.
HRT’s Training and Publications Officer, Sharon Magodyo, described how the 10% ward retention scheme was generally ineffective.
“Some wards received more money than others simply because some requests were not being approved on time, whereas residents had already made their payments. Up to now residents are still complaining that council promised that wards will plough back the money, and this time around they are coming up with a different strategy, what is the assurance that this will work?” she said.
Magodyo also stressed the need for a clear monitoring mechanism to be put in place to avoid corruption at community level.