By Delicious Mathuthu
Following the swearing in of Gweru councilors last week, Gweru residents say they are hoping for a unifier and a people centric Mayor who will put the needs of residents and the development of the city ahead of their own.
The Mayoral and Deputy Mayoral elections for Gweru City Council were put on hold by the Local Government Ministry pending an induction workshop set for the 21st and 22nd of September.
Two candidates, returning Councilor Martin Chivhoko from ward 4 and Councilor Tedious Chimombe from ward 12 who is also former Gweru Mayor, are said to have thrown in their hats for the Gweru Mayoral post while Ward 3 Councilor Girley Zvidzai and ward 14 Councilor Danny Ndava are vying for the Deputy Mayoral post.
Speaking to Community Voices Zimbabwe (CVZ) some residents and residents association representatives said they need a Mayor who is open for meaningful engagement with residents and bent on developing the city, not self-enrichment.
Zimbabwe National Organisation of Associations and Residents Trusts (ZNOART) Midlands Provincial Secretary based in Gweru, Ngoni Nyanhete, said unlike some past Mayors who divided their councilors and sometimes insulted residents instead of providing solutions, ‘Gweruans’ need someone who is engaging, humble and empathetic.
“We want a Mayor that works with residents, who implements wishes of the people; a Mayor who is accessible, who listens to the concerns of the city and wants the development of the city.We want someone who can work with his fellow councilors, with fairness and not plant divisions among councillors.
“As for residents engagement, we want someone who listens to us unlike what we saw in the past. I will not mention names but they used to sideline residents if you raise a concern they would even insult or look down upon you.
We need someone who knows that there is no small or big problem, no good or bad issue but take everything then implement that which is positive and leave the negative without insulting residents. We don’t want a Mayor that loves himself but a Mayor that loves residents,” he added.
He said the new Mayor should prioritise reviving council enterprises and lift the rates burden that residents are currently facing to finance the local authority. Nyanhete argued that the new Mayor should prioritise alternative revenue streams to subsidise rates for residents as some lost their properties after failing to pay the exorbitant fees.
“Council no longer has much alternative revenue, with most of their properties and businesses gone and no longer functioning. In that regard we want someone who will fight to revive those properties so that they bring in revenue,” he said.
He further stated that the new Mayor should look at the city by-laws and ensure that they are crafted in a manner responsive to the needs and developmental aspirations of the residents.
A resident of Mkoba, Innocent Mparutsa said for a Mayor, Gweru needs someone who is responsible, who does the wishes of residents and knows that the post he has is not for syphoning resources but investing into the city.
“Of late Mayors were choosing their needs first over the citizens’ and council was becoming corrupt. If you look at Gweru City we now have some areas with more potholes than the roads.
So I think whoever becomes Mayor should stand for the people, listen to people and understand what his people want, especially on the water crisis which needs to be addressed. We are not getting water but we are paying exorbitant bills every month, I think the new Mayor should push for correcting that,” he said.
Another resident, Yeukai Munetsi, said as a young woman she would have preferred a female Mayor to amplify women’s issues.
“As a young woman I would really appreciate a woman to take over as Mayor, however competency is also a skill that is required. If she is competent yes, we would really love a different hand, a different texture to see things from a woman’s point of view and have our needs and necessities addressed,” she said.
We really need a woman to be there in the forefront not just being merely councilors but be there in the top table where men sit, where top bosses sit. What we are looking forward to is that, what the outgoing Mayor failed to do, the incoming will fulfill, especially on the issue of water provision,” she added.
She argued that the new Mayor should ensure that due diligence is done on procuring water equipment unlike in the past where wrong equipment was procured bleeding the council financially worsening the dire service delivery situation.
Further it emerged that for council to improve service delivery, a deliberate stance must be taken to put the interests of employees high on the priority list. A demotivated workforce will not discharge their mandate effectively and efficiently. In the past, Gweru City Council attracted debate on their penchant for top of the range vehicles amidst a financial crisis that crippled service delivery
Meanwhile, Gweru Residents and Ratepayers Association (GRRA) Executive Director Cornilia Selipiwe expressed fears of divisions prior to, and after the Mayoral elections unless the main opposition party, Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) selects the best candidate after submission if Curriculum Vitae (CV).
“Yes people would want to talk about democracy where councilors are supposed to go in their first meeting and elect a Mayor that they want but the challenge is that whenever you have any election, be it burial society elections even in the family when you want to choose a leader, the moment you have two people vying for the same position then it means already you have divisions.
“We have heard that there two contestants, Councilor Chimombe and Councilor Chivhoko. So already there are councilors who are supporting Chimombe and those who are supporting Chivhoko,” he said.
Selipiwe said this could lead to favouritism whereby whoever wins will always favour those who supported him and get them into positions like in the committees.
He said the opposition party should ask for CVs and conduct interviews to avoid divisions.
It is Selipiwe’s submission that he city will needs a unifier, a Mayor who will ensure that all parties and stakeholders to do with Gweru City Council are brought together.
CCC Gweru Cluster leader, Judah Mike echoed Selipiwe’s suggestion, stating that their party had already called for CVs and those who showed interest in both positions having submitted their CVs. He highlighted that the ultimate winners will be announced after the party conducts wide consultations with residents and stakeholders to avert the possibility of divisions rocking Gweru Townhouse.