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ZEC delimitation: Urban councilor sits in rural council meetings rendered useless

By Delicious Mathuthu

As a result of Zimbabwe Electoral Commission’s controversial delimitation process conducted earlier this year, just before the August 23 harmonized elections, a councilor from an urban suburb in Gweru is sitting for meetings in a rural council which is not providing services for his ward.

Previously falling under ward 16 under Vungu RDC, now ward 5, Woodlands Park councilor, Nyika Parirenyatwa, says after ZEC’s delimitation has grossly interfered with his expected roles as a councillor.  Instead of focussing on issues affecting residents in his area, he is now to sitting to discuss dip-tank and borehole drilling issues instead of real urban problems facing his ward.

Speaking after his swearing in as ward 5 councilor under Vungu RDC, Councilor Parirenyatwa said he is disappointed that Woodlands Park has remained rural.

“We have a problem in that we thought this ward (after delimitation) was now going to be under City of Gweru since it is an urban suburb but it went back to a Rural District Council which is Vungu, thereby escalating the developmental challenges of the ward,” he said.

In an exclusive interview with Community Voices Zimbabwe (CVZ), Councilor Parirenyatwa said Woodlands is being serviced by Gweru City Council and his presence at Vungu RDC has no value.

“The biggest challenge is that the services that we are supposed to get as ward 5 are from City of Gweru which is in Gweru urban as you know.

“So for me to sit at the Rural District Council where there is no service that we are getting is a challenge,” Councilor Parirenyatwa added.

He said there is nothing meaningful that he will be doing at Vungu RDC meetings as ward 5 is now purely urban, unlike before delimitation where he had a peri urban part which was rural, and was working with that part of the ward at Vungu RDC.

“There is nothing that I will be doing there (at Vungu). I can’t contribute anything there because they will be talking about rural issues. After delimitation, part of (Woodlands) Phase 1 and the whole of Phase 2 now stand alone as ward 5 and it’s under Vungu RDC but the services that we want as residents of ward 5 are from City of Gweru.

There is no single service that we are getting or that can be provided by Vungu RDC. What we want is that I, as a councilor, am supposed to sit at City of Gweru where we get services because when I sit at Vungu meetings they will be talking about dip-tank, borehole drillings yet we, as people in town, our issues are supposed to go to City of Gweru,” he said.

Councilor Nyika said his planned strategy to navigate past the challenge is to create relations with City of Gweru and lobby for developmental assistance for his area.

“Since my greatest task now is to foster harmonious and mutually beneficial relations with City of Gweru where the developmental issues of my ward are better addressed than under Vungu RDC. At Vungu I will be going there maybe just to get allowances but my main job is at City of Gweru,” he said.

Councilor Parirenyatwa further revealed that in his previous term he was working well with Gweru City Council and Mayors to address Woodlands concerns.

He said Woodlands Challenges will only end if he is correctly deployed.

The suburb was established at the hype of a national housing policy seeking to build millions of houses nationwide and the private developer responsible for Woodlands Park overlooked the bounds between Gweru City and Vungu RDC in terms of providing basic services and capacities to do so.

The suburb is located adjacent to Gweru’s main dump-site which is less than 20 meters away and remain vulnerable to smoke from burning waste.  CVZ spoke to Vungu RDC Chief Executive Officer, Alex Magura, on Woodlands Park residents’ dilemma, who revealed that the suburb was doomed from the onset as Vungu RDC’s authority was overlooked.

He said his council has of late made efforts to reclaim its authority as the suburb is under their land.

“Woodlands is under Vungu Rural District Council, the councilor sits in this council. The problems that we have stem from the way in which that suburb was developed. From the inception of the suburb all the services were actually provided by Gweru City Council in liaison with the developer who was developing that area.

So in terms of approvals of the development; in terms of plan approvals, housing inspection and so on, most of those things were done by Gweru City Council. We have only come in the last two or three years to try and reclaim our authority as a Rural Council under which jurisdiction that suburb falls. So there is still confusion in terms of where that suburb belongs, that is in terms of the residents of that suburb”, reiterated Magura.

However, Magura argued that  Gweru has been collecting rates from Woodlands and has also been providing water and the sewer services. On refuse collection, he said that has not been efficiently and effectively done hence challenges still remain.

“Sometimes when rate payers go to Gweru City with certain challenges they refer them back to Vungu Rural District Council for attention but our challenge is that not many of those residents pay their rates to this council,” Magura said.

As a solution, Magura is of of the position that residents in Woodlands pay part of their rates to Vungu RDC if service delivery is to be improved. He argued that the confusion over the suburb emanates from the absence of a clear delineation of who does what at the suburb.

In the current circumstances, it appears  Vungu RDC has no capacity to provide some of the services that Gweru City can.Technically, in terms of the geography,  Woodlands falls under Vungu RDC and Gweru City is overstepping their bounds and extending its authority over his council.

However, Magura argued that Vungu RDC is ready to improve service delivery should the demarcation are clearly delineated.

“Really, they wouldn’t be anything wrong with that if everything was clearly delineated because as Vungu we don’t provide water services, we don’t provide sewer services, there will be nothing wrong with Gweru City Council providing for those specific services and levying residents for those leaving us as Vungu to collect the land levies or the land rates and property taxes which we can then use to provide other services that Gweru City is not in a position to provide,” he said.

Contacted for comment, Gweru City Council Public Relations Officer, Vimbai Chingwaramusee said Woodlands Park is not their baby, but are only providing services as a council.

She said Gweru City Council always considers input from the Woodlands Park councilor on service delivery issues that they provide.

“Woodlands is under Vungu RDC, however it is provided with services from City of Gweru. We have always considered input from Vungu Councillor. We are always engaging with him and he does the same when it has to do with the provision of water, sewer and refuse collection as these are the services we only offer to Woodlands,” she said.

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