The Combined Harare Residents Association condemns the perpetual blatant violation of legal provisions governing municipal budgeting by the City of Harare and Ministry of Local Government and rejects the budget on the basis that it is a product of a flawed process.

The local authority has once again clandestinely sent the 2020 budget for approval to the Minister of Local Government without availing the budget for public inspection and participation. This undemocratic move both thwarts the residents’ voice and public scrutiny in order to avoid resistance by residents on the proposed “dubious” water charges that will see the poor in high-density suburbs subsiding industry.

Section (288) (2) (a) of the Urban Councils Act 29:15 stipulates that “when the estimates presented in terms of subsection (1) the council shall ensure that copies of the estimates are forthwith made available for inspection by the public.” This provision is further strengthened by the same act on Section 219 (2) (a) and (b) which state that before any proposed tariff comes into effect, it must be advertised in two issues of newspaper for a period of not less than thirty days from the date of the first advertisement. Again Section 219 of the Urban Councils Act (3) (a) and (b) give also residents and ratepayer’s powers to object the proposed tariffs for reconsideration. It is disturbing that both the 2019 Supplementary Budget and the 2020 budget did not follow the above mentioned provisions. In addition to that, residents had concerns on the proposed charges but they were never given a chance to give their feedback on the proposed budget because Council did not avail the budget for inspection. To this end CHRA believes that the 2020 Budget is illegal since it did not follow the required legal process.

In a letter dated 9 December 2019, the Combined Harare Residents Association wrote to the Town Clerk of Harare calling for “Urgent Availing of Copies of 2020 Budget Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure at All District Offices for Public Inspection.” There was no response to the letter and furthermore no action was taken to ensure that the “copies of the budget estimates” were made available to the public. It is then shocking that the City of Harare posted on its Facebook Page on the 11 March 2020 stating that the “budget has been approved.”

CHRA is deeply concerned that, while the Council boasts of having legal minds among councillors and technocrats, the perpetual disregard of legal processes governing budgeting exposes both competence and commitment of these individuals.

The City of Harare cannot claim that it is charging “sub economic” rates from the 2018 budget, while it is proposing to charge ZWL/RTGS $20 for 50 000 litres of water to industries, this is the worst sub economic tariff ever. We view that non-availing of the 2020 budget to the public for inspection and objections in terms of the law were machinations to make sure that this proposal sails through without any form of resistance, and with the Minister of Local Government approving such a tariff shows that we are not going anywhere.

CHRA reiterates its position that the budget process is equally important as the outcome (budget) and any budget process that throws citizens to the periphery of local governance will seriously impact on revenue collection for the city. Furthermore, any budget that is a product of a flawed process weakens the morality and legal basis for the City to claim payment for rates and tariffs for such a budget can be challenged in any competent court of law.

CHRA demands an explanation from both the Mayor and the Minister of Local Government on this serious flout of laws governing budgeting. CHRA will use all available options at its disposal to ensure compliance to the budget laws.

Source: Combined Harare Residents Association (CHRA)