Gweru residents are pinning their hopes on the newly sworn-in councilors, praying that they will improve service delivery and make proper engagement with residents for the progress of the city.
A rift had developed between former councilors, and Gweru residents due to a lack of proper consultations, and unilateral decision-making. This compromised comprehensive service delivery in the city as well as confidence in the local authority.
Speaking during the swearing-in of the new Councilors on Friday, Gweru Acting Town Clerk, Livingston Churu, emphasized unity of purpose and the need for professionalism in running council affairs.
“We are stronger together. This city needs to be looked after. We have seen a lot of smiles from your relatives, they were so happy, we were also very happy. This is just the beginning of the journey, a journey to serve Gweru. Gweru needs to be served with dignity, truthfulness, with professionalism. It needs to be led with ethics, we need to be ethical,” Churu said.
Several residents who spoke to this publication called for improved service delivery, especially water provision, and the creation of a sustainable engagement system to incorporate residents’ aspirations in the city.
Gweru Residents and Ratepayers Association (GRRA) Executive Director, Cornilia Selipiwe said there are many problems in the city but what residents expect, most of all, is engagement as the previous council was detached from the community.
“As Gweru residents we have a plethora of things that we expect the incoming councilors to solve. Part of what we envisage as a city or as residents are to see a council that is well engaging, that is well engaged with residents because what has been obtaining on the ground of late is that we had a serious challenge in terms of engagement. We had our Council operating from far left and our residents operating from far right which is not proper for developmental purposes,” Selipiwe said.
He challenged whoever is going to be Mayor to be a unifier, and ensure there is a relationship between them as councilors and management, and between council (councilors and management) and residents.
“What we have seen of late which was hampering development was the fact that there were serious fissures, they were serious divisions between the political side and the administrative side. So as long as there are divisions, as long as there are fissures between the management and the councilors we will not have quality service delivery that we envisage as a local authority.
“By and large what we need is a council that is going to be engaging with residents, a council that is going to properly consult residents on matters to do with development not the lipstick and cosmetic kind of consultations that were happening but effective consultations and engagement where residents will have a voice. We are not expecting much from them because they also understand the challenges we are having as a city.
“Challenges to do with refuse collection, sewer, water, street lighting; there are lots of challenges but we understand that they already know these, but, the only way to deal with these is to have an engagement platform. To make sure that we co-exist and live together as a city; we do not want a situation where the residents are operating on their own, the councilors operating on their own and the management is also operating on their own. At the end of the day what we want is a council that is engaged, a council that is going to engage us, a council that is going to create platforms for discussions and engagement,” said Selipiwe.
Memory Chidano, a resident of Ward 13, Mkoba North, said the elected councilors are youthful and believe can execute their duties with efficiency and give feedback to residents.
“We are very happy that we now have young Councilors who will be very energetic and quick in executing their mandate. We are looking forward to things we have been crying for like water provision and sewer challenges, with many others, will be improved. They should remember us, and come back to us with feedback on whatever they sit there and discuss,” she said.
Douglas Tsuro, a member of the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC), reiterated the need for improved service delivery from the new council adding that they should priorities the vulnerable.
“We have many expectations from them on the problems that we are facing, especially service delivery. We need water in our city, we need a clean city so that we don’t get diseases like cholera and typhoid, street lighting, and roads, and we need them to assist us with that. They also need to assist us with our disadvantaged children on the Mayor’s Christmas Cheer Fund, we expect them to make a fair distribution of such things. The vulnerable like child-headed families we expect our councilors to assist us so that we uplift our city,” he said.
Another resident, Lameck Sateko, said the new Councilors need a paradigm shift from what has been happening, putting emphasis on engagement.
“The newly elected Councilors should change Gweru, they should not do what has been happening but come up with different ideas and know that they were elected by the people. Whatever they get from the council they should bring it back to the people, whatever decision they want to make they should consult residents first,” he said.
He also said councilors should make an effort to provide water and also not operate in silos but always be accessible to all residents regardless of political affiliation.
“On the water, what pains us is that water is there but we get too many excuses, electricity this and that; they should try by all means so that we can at least say when Councilor so and so came in they did this so that residents see the benefit of electing them,” Sateko said.
Some vendors operating in the streets of Gweru who spoke to this publication on condition of anonymity said the new Councilors should find ways to legalise their activities instead of chasing them all over town.
“This issue of spending the whole day chasing us we do not want that. We are the ones who voted for them so they should see to it that they allow us to work because this is where we make a living. It is better for them to come and officially collect money per day because they are already taking money from us. To the new Councilors, Gweru is becoming known for taking our things, They should ensure that when they come in, they make our work easier, ensure that our things are not taken or send their police to chase us,” said another vendor.
Gweru District Development Coordinator (DDC), Tarisai Mudadigwa said the new Councilors should leave behind a positive legacy after their term.
“You should strive to live a legacy, a legacy in the history of Gweru City Council. A legacy characterised by hard work, honesty, and dedication to duty. You know the background we have, issues of water, street lights, illegal vending. You are the new hoes coming in, and we expect you to have an impact and I am very happy that I saw quite a youthful group of councilors,” Mudadigwa said.
On the election of the Mayor, the deputy and committee chairpersons, Mudadigwa said they postponed them to allow for the first phase of induction between the 21st and 22nd of September so that Councilors make informed decisions when they choose their leaders.
“We felt as a Ministry that it was necessary to equip the new Councilors who are coming into the new system of local governance. The local government system is dynamic, it changes especially under the devolution mantra so we saw it fit for you to be trained first, and equipped with relevant knowledge so that when you elect either the Mayor, the Deputy Mayor, and various chairpersons you will make informed decisions that will ensure that we will have improved service delivery in our city,” he said.
He also reminded the new Councilors of who their bosses are.
“Councilors, the secret to remain where you are sitting is to serve the electorate, those are our bosses. As a government, we say we want servant leadership, and always maintain an open door policy to the people who elected you. When you return from council let’s also give feedback to the people who sent us,” he said.