The centralisation of local authority functions in government has made the running of councils in the country difficult, the former Gweru Mayor, Josiah Makombe has said. This is contrary to claims that local authorities run by the opposition have failed to deliver services to residents.
The former Gweru mayor underscored residents had to know and understand that local authorities had limitations as they were controlled by the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing, which did not want to accommodate councils.
“I wouldn’t want to dwell much on defending local authorities but Zimbabwe is a unitary state, where the umbilical cord is there for anyone to see from local authorities up to the government. It takes everyone to untangle that but blaming the other is only a way of trying to play politics,” Makombe said at an election debate series on the March 26 by-elections organised by CITE on Friday.
Makombe said seeing the decay in local authorities, a local government minister would have resigned as they have failed to supervise operations.
“If I was the minister, with what is happening in local authorities, whether urban or rural, I would have resigned because I would have been the one presiding over the local authorities to an extent that the minister has to give authority to employ a one-day casual worker,” he said.
The former mayor who is seeking re-election as Ward 2 councillor in the by-election, highlighted that kind of scenario made it ‘very’ difficult to squarely blame the local authorities led by the opposition for failing because they did not have the power to make decisions on their own.
“We have been failing as a country. I will give you an example of refuse collection, I have said before where local authorities collect revenue in RTGS yet most service stations sell their fuel in USD. When the council wants to pour in fuel to collect refuse, they go to a service station that sells in RTGS but is charged a black-market rate, and at the end of day, people are ripped off. So, what have we done?” he quizzed.
Makombe said local authorities had approached the government to grant them permission so that council can fuel its vehicles at Central Mechanical and Equipment Department (CMED) service stations as done by ministries but that request was quashed.
“This was so that it does not become a big issue removing litter but the government doesn’t want to accommodate local authorities when it comes to issues of service delivery. They can only speak to say, ‘you have failed’ yet these are challenges,” said the aspiring councillor.
He also stated there was unfairness in the distribution of funds for roads maintenance by the Zimbabwe National Road Administration (ZINARA) with more funds going to rural areas.
Makombe maintained that as long as systems in the country were centralised, the development would be slow.
He added that it was, therefore, crucial for residents to understand that the only way for cities to sustain themselves was to create as many projects as possible.
“That’s why I say we must get as much equipment as possible on our own to deliver. It doesn’t make sense to keep crying, we need to have a solution and the solution is to go back to basics. What used to happen before is Gweru used to have its own projects – the Go Beer breweries and the bars it used to run plus quite a lot of things,” Makombe said, noting this was the trajectory of his campaign.