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City councilors under fire for failing to represent constituents during five-year term

Staff Reporter

Mbuya Saungweme of Mbizo Section 3 in Kwekwe holds a water bill receipt, outside her house. She tries to look for a better place where the sun can reflect on the paper so that she can see properly. Because of her age, she fails to see properly and calls a young man passing by the road.

Nhai mwana wangu do svikawo pano uzondibetsera kuverenga chipepa ichi, maziso haachawoni wena. Ndaisimboshandisa magirasi asi hazvichashandi, kwava kuchembera, (my son may you please assist me in reading what this water bill says, I am no longer able to see properly because of old age).  She laughs, while her mouth shows the front role which no longer has the teeth. “Kana chizukuru changu chiripo chinombondibetsera zvino nhasi chaenda kuchikoro (My grandson is not around and he is usually the one who assists),” she said while seeking assistance from a passerby.

The young man notifies her that it is written, RTGS298 630.

Hezvo, zvino nhai mwana wangu ndokuti kudii ikoko. Zvinorevei, kana kuri kumayuwesi ndoinenge iri marii nhaiwe (I do not understand the figure, how much is that in USD?). The young man explains the interbank rate on that particular day which s USD$59.73. After hearing the amount she holds her hands above her head in disbelief, “Baba vangu Shava iwe, zvino ndoiwanepi mari iyoyo chimbondiudzawo nhai mwana wangu. Zuro muzukuru akanzi Chishanu chikasvika asina kuuya neten yuwesi yekuchikoro anozodzingwa vhiki rinotevera. Pekuwana mari yacho ndopasina, yohwee zvino ndotangira papi nhaiwe. Yohwe yohwe yohwe, aaaaah veduweee nhaka inovharwa mvura iyoyi (That is a lot of money for me, where will I get such an amount of money when I am struggling to get the USD$10 that is needed to pay for my grandson’s school fees. If they come and stop the water meter we are doomed),” she said.

It is against this backdrop that local city councilors are facing mounting criticism for their alleged failure to adequately represent the interests of their constituents throughout their entire five-year term. As residents voice their frustrations, questions are being raised about the effectiveness and commitment of these elected officials. From the moment they took office, these councilors pledged to be the voice of the people, promising to advocate for their needs and concerns. However, as the years passed, disillusionment among residents grew as their demands fell on deaf ears.

One of the main complaints revolves around the lack of transparency and communication exhibited by the councilors. Time and again attempts by concerned citizens to engage with their elected representatives have been met with silence or vague. This disconnect has left many feeling ignored and frustrated, especially when facing issues that directly affect their lives.

“We have tried to engage the councilors several times with issues of service delivery, but countless times they have failed to respond to our issues. The issue of sewerage has become unbearable, countless times we have witnessed over-flow of sewerage here in Mbizo Section 1 extension. Oftentimes the sewer flows past our houses, and we have to open a way for it to flow forward without affecting the whole yard. School children have not been spared either as they walk through sewerage while going to school. Sadly we do not even know if we still have a councilor in this ward because he does not come back to the people to listen to our issues,” said a woman who pleaded for anonymity fearing to be attacked during the election period.

Residents have at several times engaged councilors, to deal with such issues, but to no avail. This is despite the fact that the right to a healthy environment is guaranteed in Section 73 (1) (a), (b) and (2) of the constitution which gives every person the right to an environment that is not harmful to health, and have an environment protected and to have the State oversee the progressive realization of their rights.

Furthermore, some councilors have been accused of prioritizing personal agendas over the concerns of their constituents. While public trust was expected to be the foundation of their service, it appears that political maneuvering and self-interest have taken precedence. This misalignment between the councilors’ actions and the needs of the people has resulted in growing skepticism and disillusionment within the community.

“…these councilors are getting into these positions, not for the benefit of the people in their wards, but for their own gains. One thing that should be noted is that most of them are after getting stands, and monthly allowances from the city council and nothing else. I say this because when these people went to the council during their first 100 days they were so vibrant in the council debating issues that are affecting us in our wards. When they were given the stands, they became silent in the council chambers seconding most of the decisions that were being decided upon without getting back to the voters to inquire about their views. I can tell you so many names of councilors whom I personally know, were after stands, but I do not want to pinpoint names.

“However, I want you to know that the constitution stipulates that whenever a person gets into office he or she is supposed to surrender/submit his/her assets. My question is how many of these councilors have done that? You have to know that the majority of these councilors are tenants, they do not own houses. Some started building houses when they got to the council after being granted stands. My advice to the voters is that we must be careful whom we vote for because the majority of the people that want to get into council are after personal gains largely stand, and not people’s interest,” said a source that refused to be named to protect identity.

Residents have also pointed out instances where important decisions were made without proper consultation, disregarding the input and wishes of the public. Whether it was the approval of controversial development projects or the implementation of policies affecting local businesses and services, community members report feeling excluded from these crucial discussions, leading to a growing sense of powerlessness.

“…we have at several times declined the proposed budgets that they bring to us. We have never consented to the budgets that were peddled before us. However, our inputs have not been considered because, after the budget consultative meetings, the bills will rise up higher than we agreed. They come to us with a budget that they have already decided for us, and do not consider our inputs. How can they increase water bills by 400% seriously, and who amongst us would consent to that? When we try to engage the councilors they will just give the response, ‘zvinhu zvacho zvinonetsa’ (the situation is difficult). But we are entrusting them to negotiate on our behalf, what kind of a leader does not come back to the voters to listen to our concerns and needs? These councilors have failed us,” remarked a resident identified as MaTshuma.

The elderly people have not been spared either as they are made to pay exorbitant water bills despite the fact that most of them are not able to work, even in the informal markets. The imposition of exorbitant tariffs on the Elderly people is a cause for concern because Section 21 of the constitution states that; “1)the state and all institutions and Agencies of government at every level must take reasonable measures including legislative measures, to ensure respect, support, and protections of elderly persons, and to enable them to participate in the life of their communities”. It further states that “…to give elderly persons the opportunity to engage in productive activity suited to their abilities and consistent with their vocations and desires.”

Speaking during one of his campaign rallies at Emthonjeni, Zanu-PF aspiring candidate for Mbizo constituency Vongainashe Mupereri criticized the current councilors for failing to address issues that affect the community while advising the voters to do justice for themselves by voting for people who will listen to their cause.

“…when I discuss the water bills, some of you will argue that the local governance Minister is the one who approved the budget. However, when the budget is being prepared the councilors that you voted for will come and consult you on what you need to be included in the budget. After that, they are supposed to do as you have said or decided. But unfortunately, I had that after you had denied the last budget when the councilors went and had their own meetings, they agreed to increase the budget by 400%. You voted for them, and now they are punishing you for voting for them. After their meetings, they then signed and sent the budget to the Minister, and he does not say much except to say that is what you as residents decided. So do not be blinded that it was the Minister, it is actually the councilors that you voted for who made all this possible, and now you are suffering.

“Those who understand local governance know what I am talking about. The water bills, the budgets all such things are drafted by the councilors that you voted for. The councilors that you are voting for are now giving you what you voted for. However, I tried to warn you as we were preparing for the by-elections that it was high time you fix things for the better and vote for a Zanu-PF legislator, and their councilors so that they will rectify the challenge for you, and do what is called a supplementary budget to, but you refused. Now they have increased the water bills for you. The 400% which they introduced was staggered in four phases, now they increased by 100%, In June 100%, will be added along the way, and in December the phase will be done. This is the painful reality that you are facing. But now you have the chance during the coming elections to vote out those leaders who are not assisting you,” said Mupereri.

Speaking in an interview with this reporter the Secretary General of the Residents, and Ratepayers Association, Alex Homela stated that the residents were not pleased with the outgoing councilors saying that they focused on personal gains other than the people’s interests.

“…we are very sorry for the past five years, looking at what all councilors have done. In all the 14wards, out of the 120 000 residents here are not happy with the outgoing council. To us as the representative of the people, the outgoing councilors have failed us dismally. They failed to execute their mandate as they are supposed to, and people are not happy. From the elderly to the young people, no one is happy with the councilors. As a representative of the people I am saying the outgoing councilors have failed, they ventured into politics when they were not supposed to be in politics. They focused on personal benefits, and ignore the needs of the people, and their civic roles.

“Going forward we are saying, those who are going to be voted in should focus on the people and not their gains. We do not want to mention the corruption that took place, but we know there is corruption that took place. After the elections we are going to expose the corruption that took place, but as a representative of the people I am saying they have failed Kwekwe. Out of the 32 councilors, they have all failed the people, the people that we entrusted to represent the people failed us, the elderly, and youths, are not happy. We also expect the Kwekwe City Council management to make sure there is justice in the execution of duties. As we move forward we look forward to having councilors who can represent the people,” he said.

Efforts to get in touch with the Town Clerk were fruitless as she could not answer her phone. The Mayor, Future Tutore could not respond to messages sent on her mobile phone either. However, outgoing councilor Washington Moyo told this reporter that there has been a lot of progress that he can point out to clear his name. He explored some of the issues that he managed to resolve during his 5-year term.

When I took the council role, there were a lot of issues that needed urgent addressing in this ward including drainage systems, and road networks, some of which had gone for seven years without being attended to. The sewer system in Mbizo Section 10 was in a story state. So when was elected the first thing that I addressed in 2018 was the issue of road and drainage systems, and I would say around 70% was fixed. In 2019 we completely addressed the issue of sewers. Another challenge was the lack of tower lights which resulted in residents losing property to thieves, we are happy now that every tower light in our ward is working.

In Section 10 there were water woes which had persisted for 8 years, and we managed to resolve that issue in 2020, and now it has become a thing of the past. We had a challenge with a bridge that connects sections 9 and 10, which was flooding and making it difficult for residents to navigate. So together with the council, we managed to resolve that issue. We were also blessed with devolution funds which we used to refurbish the route that transverse to section 10 from the road that connects the main Mbizo 4 road. The road is around 200 meters. There is a small portion that is left to be done, unfortunately, the machinery to fix that is being used somewhere else so I am hoping that this work will be finished when in no longer in office,” he said.

The consequences of this alleged failure to represent the people are far-reaching. Efforts to address pressing issues such as sewerage flow in most houses of sections 1, 3, 5, and 6, failure to consider residents’ input during budget consultation, service delivery, and environmental sustainability have stalled, as councilors have seemingly prioritized their own interests above those of their constituents. The lack of progress and effective governance has left the city at a standstill, stagnating its growth and hindering the quality of life for its residents.

In light of these serious allegations, calls for accountability and change have echoed throughout the city. Residents and various community organizations have begun mobilizing to demand greater transparency, better communication channels, and stronger mechanisms to ensure that their voices are heard and represented.

As the city councilors near the end of their term, the upcoming local elections will provide an opportunity for the citizens to hold their representatives accountable for their actions and decide whether to seek fresh leadership capable of truly representing the people’s interests. Until then, the disillusionment and frustration within the community will continue to be felt, underscoring the urgent need for a renewed commitment to public service and stronger ties between elected officials and their constituents.

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