The Bulawayo City Council (BCC) hosted a series of the 2019 Supplementary Budget Consultations across Bulawayo’s 26 Wards, following the sudden rise in the country’s inflation from 5 to 56%. Women’s Institute for Leadership Development (WILD) attended meetings held in high and low-density suburbs.
The proposed budget is an upward review of the local authority’s 2019 budget from $212 million to RTGS$475 million. If approved, residents in high density suburbs will pay at least $40,70 monthly fixed rates– assuming they use water within rationing limits – up from about $20,29 while residents in medium density suburbs will pay $70,99 up from $35,61 per month.
Baines Junior Primary School
Residents expressed concern over the rates that were allocated to low density suburbs, citing how they equally cannot afford to pay for these charges. Council representatives said they have run out of time thus there was no time for residents to air out their suggestions and mainly because the meeting started late.
J. W. Mthimkhulu
Residents proposed that council rids of unnecessary costs such as the exorbitant costs of bitumen for road construction works and the city continues with maintaining dust roads and rather focus on vital issues as water, health, sewer etc.
Residents requested that council considers that the majority of residents at ward 29 are the elderly not employed and as such the increase in already hard to pay rates will not help anyhow. The elderly requested that government implements things such as government taking care of the 70+ costs and assist them.
Some suggested that council sells moveable assets that are no longer in use than them collecting dust and costing in maintenance. There was also consensus among residents that council should focus on dealing with the root cause of what affected the budget in the first place to avoid risk of re convening the following month for the same reasons of crafting another supplementary budget.
Residents requested council be truthful that it is a 100% increase and not the 56% they are masquerading as the proposal. They also bemoaned how council seems oblivious of how inflation not only affects council but also ratepayers thus the overzealous supplementary budget to already in debt taxpayers.
Council was also accused of pledging to finance an artist from Thekwini for the Intwasa Arts Festival and also assisting with housing ZITF guests in the city and these all amounted to unnecessary costs.
People said they would be willing to work with Council but in 2017 council blew a lot of money in buying cars for directors, the town clerk and 2 cars for the mayor in less than 3 months. In that light Council has to assure people how there will not be further misappropriation funds and if possible, a proper audit should be produced for better accountability.
Council was asked on why they have refused to lease out Entumbane Hall yet the lease would have allowed for less costs on the local authority. A minority proposed 25% increase and the majority totally rejected the supplementary budget.
Low turnout of residents was alluded to poor means of advertising community meetings. There was a suggestion for budget consultation meetings to be advertised through sms considering that City Council sends out pending payments using such platforms. One resident cited to have been aware of the 2019 Supplementary Budget Consultation close to 30 minutes prior to the commencement of the meeting.
Most households in Tshabalala do not have water meters and for a lengthy period of time payments have been made according to fixed charges, which residents stated as unfair. There was a demand of the full implementation of the Ward Retention Fund as residents seem not to be benefiting from it. Tshabalala residents stated how they spearheaded the construction of a bridge as the Council had failed to assist in that regard.
The Cowdray Park supplementary budget review meeting was called off to a much later date due to a low turnout of residents. There were less than 15 residents who attended the meeting and as such, it was impossible for those to decide on issues that will affect 27 000 households in Cowdray Park.
Ward 18 residents rejected the proposed budget, citing how Council is in a tendency of imposing budgets on them. Residents requested for such practices to come to an end as these deprive them of a right of being actively involved in decision making processes.
Residents proposed that the Council installs prepaid water meters as a way of raising funds that can be used for improving the provision of service delivery. Council`s proposal of a 56% increase, which translated to $39, which was rejected by residents.
Following Council’s proposed budget reading, residents highlighted how difficult it would be for them make payments because of the high unemployment rates thus no source of steady income. The challenge that the residents are facing is the issue of landlords not paying rates yet they collect rentals every month. Others have already increased the rentals before the proposal and council must intervene.
The rehabilitation of roads should be given much priority in the Council as any other form of social service. Residents pleaded for Council to desist from a system of patching roads as it fails to deal with the root of the matter.
The all women Development committee was officially introduced to the members of the community as a way of facilitating fruitful engagements with Lobengula residents and the Ward Councillor.
The budget consultation meeting in Nketa was postponed to Wednesday, 17 April 2019 at 2pm because the councilor Arnold Batsirai was not available. The normal procedure for budget consultations is that the councilor has to be there. The Cowdray Park meeting was also cancelled due to low turnout of residents.
Source: Women’s Institute for Leadership Development (WILD)