Bulawayo residents have criticised a proposal by the local authority to construct a ZW$25 million house for the mayor as opposed to renovating a double-storey council property which had been identified as the mayoral official residence.
An interdepartmental council committee recommended building a new house for the mayor was ideal, noting the ZWL$25 million that was to be used would be sourced by transferring funds from other financial accounts. “ZWL$25 000 000 is to be viremented from vote 0084/12244 ($16 200 000) and 0084/12245 ($8 800 000) to cater for building costs for the Mayoral Mansion,” the confidential council report read.
Bulawayo Residents Association (BURA) chairperson, Winos Dube said the proposal was shocking. “The suggested budget is too heavy. What is so important about this mansion is that it has to be prioritised. We have other pressing issues in the city such as sewer, water and roads. Honestly, we expected better from the council,” said Dube.
“The council already has all necessary facilities for the mayor to perform his job. This mansion clearly isn’t necessary. The mayor is a resident of Bulawayo who already owns property within the city, why then would the council want to prioritise the mansion? They would rather focus resources on the pandemic and other service delivery issues.”
Matabeleland Institute for Human Rights (MIHR) Coordinator Khumbulani Maphosa echoed similar sentiments that the council must prioritise service delivery.
“Holding all things constant the mayoral mansion is not a bad concept. It is a concept implemented in many local authorities across the globe especially considering the status of a Mayor for local development. However, realities on the ground speak differently. We need to accept the truth that we honestly can’t afford the latitude of building a mayoral mansion now because the economy doesn’t allow it,” said Maphosa.
“BCC has been struggling with service delivery concerns such as sewer burst fixing, water burst attendance, road rehabilitation, fixing traffic lights and street lighting, fewer ambulances, inadequate fire fighting equipment, obsolete service delivery equipment, inadequate refuse collection trucks, and poor remuneration of workers.”
Maphosa added: “Check council minutes every month, nearly every council department is incapacitated to execute its mandate due to financial constraints which makes them fail to operate effectively. The council has even been failing to service residential stands citing resource constraints. With these realities, constructing a mayoral mansion will not be the most prudent thing now.”
Maphosa said if the local authority goes ahead with its proposal it would be creating an impression that it does not care about the poor state of service delivery for the ratepayers.
“By law building a mayoral mansion is right, but by leadership, standards it’s unjust because it creates the impression that they don’t care for their residents but only care for pampering themselves. It will totally annihilate the already broken social contract between Council and the residents,” he said.
“Right now, the council needs to be fixing their public image in the eyes of the residents who are their major stakeholder, not in the eyes of central government and the world. So it’s better for them to abandon the idea until things normalise.”
Source: Centre for Innovation and Technology