Should I Pay My Rates?

Summary of challenges facing the City of Harare as outlined by Harare North MP Allan “Rusty” Markham.

In response to the hundreds of residents with the above question, I have summarized the situation as I see it in the City, mainly pertaining to my constituency and the Northern suburbs, to help you. I feel one must read this inclusively, everyone is responsible. I cover Central and Local Government issues and have also included some centralized issues like ZESA / ZINARA as they are interlinked.

You vote for your representative, and that’s who you get, win or lose. And those who didn’t vote, you have lost a voice.

So what I see as contributing to Harare’s mounting/worsening problems are as follows:

  1. The Minister of Local Government and Public Works has not appointed a Local Government Board, for over 5 years.
  2. The Government appointed a Provincial Governor / Minister of State for Harare not elected but wielding so much power over Council and the elected representatives. (Is it legally constituted?).
  3. Government further appointed another un-elected official into the powerful position and title of Provincial Development Coordinator who has assumed power over Council (Is this legally Constituted?)
  4. We have had 3 Mayors in Cllr Herbert Gomba (recalled), Cllr Jacob Mafume (suspended), and now Cllr Stewart Mutizwa, Deputy Mayors, Cllr Enock Mupamawonde (recalled) and Cllr Luckson Mukunguma (Suspended). The Minister has in the last few days appointed Cllr Stewart Mutizwa as Acting Mayor.
  5. Since March 2020, Harare has lost about 22 out of 46 democratically elected councilors through contested party recalls by MDC T (Dr Thokozani Khupe and Senator Douglas Mwonzora.)
  6. Sadly two councilors have passed on, and no by-elections have been held to fill their vacancies, notwithstanding provisions of the Constitution and the Electoral Act.
  7. 6 of the 8 Chairmen of Council Committees were amongst those recalled.
  8. So far some 4 full council meetings have been disrupted, by the police / SACU, with Councilors, staff and press being held for hours, but there no arrests resulting.
  9. Councilors are nervous to attend committee meetings, so numerous meetings have been cancelled due to lack of a quorum.
  10. No committee has sat since the beginning of December 2020. One called on Thursday 4th under Act Mayor Mutizwa, was cancelled as all those suspended officials want to attend!
  11. The Town Clerk is on suspension pending a court hearing. This will take time. The Acting Town Clerk has been in rotation for far too long, and for too short a period to be effective, between the two substantive directors.
  12. City has two substantive directors only (Works and Health) while one substantive director is suspended (Director of Education, Housing and Social Amenities). So 5 are Acting Directors.
  13. Also not reporting for work are some 20 managers who are facing various charges in court or with the two anti-corruption bodies at work.

Service Delivery

  1. Health – Clinics in the North are closed except for 1 or 2 afternoons a week, including Mt Pleasant, Borrowdale, Highlands. Hatcliffe is open but has 60% nursing staff at present. A large number of nurses throughout the city have resigned due to poor wages and late payments of those wages. There is little repair and maintenance, hardly any medicines, and critically limited PPEs for frontline health workers. Hatcliffe has had 3 nurses with Covid, frontline workers we can ill afford losing. There are hardly any council working vehicles and there is little fuel for those vehicles.
  2. Water Supply – In the ongoing saga there has been unfair distribution of what little water we have (even one day a week of supply would help). The northern suburbs are being short changed constantly. This is due to the fact we are furthest along the line, and belief is that we can manage. While some progress is being made, it has been largely slow. Chemical procurement and payment have been problematic consuming a lot of the budget and possibly missing out on economies of scale do to structured or directed procurement.
  3. Roads – There has been no tar supply even just for patching. Hatcliffe areas of Consortium and Hatcliffe Extension have been waiting for 10 to 20 years for roads. Not one meter has been laid, Hatcliffe 1 roads have had no patching for years. Alpes road, servicing the west of Hatcliffe is in a desperate state and needs reconstruction. ZINARA funds distribute only a very small percentage of what is collected in Harare from motor vehicle license fees. A parliamentary committee report is about to be released on Zinara. The Harare Quarry project needs investigation, as it crashes from one failure to another. Street lighting and robots have been neglected for a long time, with sporadic repairs.
  4. Waste Collection – Council has less than 15 trucks out of a desired minimum fleet of 46 working. Residents are resorting to dumping everywhere which is making the situation worse. Hatcliffe does not get any waste collection, due to roads and vehicle availability. Even when they have fuel the service has ranged from poor to erratic.
  5. Sewerage – to a large extent this area has been ignored by the city. Note, main plants (at Crowbourgh and Firle) are in the same catchment area for Lake Chivero, our main water supply (Manyame catchment).
  6. Education – at a total standstill with Covid but this has generally been an area of good service offering. In Hatcliffe, schools are grossly oversubscribed and school books next to nonexistent. Currently release table of primary school is a serious eye opener as to how serious this is.
  7. Planning – There is no masterplan in Harare North with no local plans in numerous areas thereby encouraging illegal settlements. Plans are generally bulldozed through despite residents objections (the Enterprise Commercial plan being one of them).
  8. Hatcliffe planning – BOTH city and central government had done nothing to solve the issue of settlements and title, for 10 to 20 years (depending on where you live). Residents are being fleeced by politicians, developers, cooperatives and others. No infrastructure really exists in the extension and consortium areas, for water, roads, drains, waste management, sewage. UDCORP (the vehicle to be used to legalize all these settlements) is idle, with no board constituted for the last 2 / 3 years.
  9. Low density planning has been corrupted to such an extent that developers go directly to Cleveland House, rather than the District Office. Files are not kept at the district offices anymore.
  10. Wetlands – The city has lost 50% of wetlands to settlement for housing and commercial or industrial development) since 2008. Cultivation takes up a large portion of the balance. Developers, opportunists abound while property agents, planners, architects and consultants seem to have lost their moral compass when it comes to wetlands.
  11. ZESA – while the local office do their best they are hamstrung by materials and spares. Transformers have a long waiting list (unless residents chip in), theft of cable and boards are a major concern in all areas. Overloading in Hatcliffe and some areas of Borrowdale are a problem. Despite the rain, power cuts have been moderate, but some areas have had weeks of no power.

Administration

  1. Income for the city.- Less than 32% of what is billed is collected. The City’s annual budget is woefully unrealistic when pricing in US dollar terms. A monthly bill in low density areas is US$20 per household.
  2. Billing – System has not worked since BIQ was stopped over 20 months ago and there is no clear roadmap for revenue assurance. This is the root cause of Harare’s problem. Many residents are not receiving bills, the ones sent out are largely discredited for perennial errors and inaccuracies. The supposed catch-up is too slow with the much-touted e-billing not properly constituted. Payments made by ratepayers are not always reflected as paid.
  3. Creditors – 1.5 billion is owed to the city, yet these are not advertised. Inaccuracies and errors are therefore not addressed. There is neither collection nor debt collectors. Some have not paid for +5 years and eagerly await some debt relief or write-off to the detriment of Council, as was imposed on the city previously by the then minister.
  4. Wages – Due to inflation staff earnings are now very low, lower grades are around 2 months plus behind due date, upper grade workers are around 3 months behind. As stated above, nurses are leaving, while the staff remain unenthusiastic.

Devolution

  1. The devolution bill has implications on the Constitution but is still taking too long to implement. It has a long way to go.
  2. The bill has not been presented to parliament but in the spirit of the 7-year old Constitution we expect some sincerity and effort to comply.
  3. Constitutionally, 5% of the NATIONAL budget is suppose to be distributed to local authorities however the method of calculations seriously handicaps Harare and Bulawayo Metropolitan Provinces. Of the money Budgeted in 2020, only 50% was distributed to councils. Provincial councilors have been appointed, why not elected, by whom? This development must be examined and corrected into compliance, particularly as the bill has not even reached parliament. Of more serious concern is that Money is being distributed for devolution, yet the bill has not been brought to parliament ? WHO decides of projects, distribution, implementation, quality control etc. We talking of 5% of the national budget!

We Urgently Require

  1. A billing system that is operational, accurate, credible and trusted.
  2. All Creditors / Debtors to be made public, so it can be corrected and collected.
  3. Debt collection must be organized, and collected under the following criteria. Firstly, the biggest debts first, and secondly also factored in those longest outstanding, irrespective who they are.
  4. Water (what we have) must be distributed fairly throughout Harare including Northern Harare.
  5. Devolution of assets to the district offices including Compactors, pick-ups, tractors, strimmer’s etc. as a matter of urgency.
  6. Localized recruitment of the City workers by / from the district. This will cut down transport, delays and expenditure.
  7. Localised decision making and administration’s decision to the local district office in conjunction with residents, and officials. This can start with one district per month in order to iron out teething problems and ensure that it is done in an orderly fashion.

I cannot answer your questions, but I have decided I will pay up to December 2021.

Source: Rusty Markham MP, Harare North

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