CHRA column

By Precious Shumba, Information Officer, CHRA
HARARE - SO much has been said and written about possible alternatives to the illegal commission imposed to run the City of Harare.
Personally, I believe that in as much as we have strong and legitimate issues against Minister Chiminya Chombo and

his illegal puppet commission there is need to be pragmatic in our approaches to emancipate ourselves from oppression.
Let me just highlight CHRA’s position regarding the illegal entity running the affairs of the capital.
In June 2005, CHRA approached the High Court challenging the legality of the commission running the City of Harare. It took the High Court three months to rule that our urgent application was unnecessary and dismissed our case.
In August 2005 and in April 2006, CHRA made composite submissions to the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Local Government, demanding among other things, the holding of elections in Harare and the repeal of the Urban Councils’ Act (Chapter 29:15). It is our strong belief and understanding that the Act as it stands, gives too much unnecessary powers to the Minister of Local Government, Public Works and Urban Development.
On 2 July 2006, CHRA chairpersons and ward coordinators, as the General Council gathered for a constitutional review seminar at the Montclair Hotel in Nyanga, resolved to carry out central and decentralised peaceful street protests, and to pursue any other alternatives to restore legitimacy to the City of Harare.
The Association’s leadership immediately established a structure of resistance through that resolution. Residents’ leaders at ward level then mobilised their constituencies for a collective response.
On Wednesday 19 July 2006, CHRA leadership, inspired by the Vice Chairperson, stormed the City centre and bravely marched down the streets of Harare towards Town House, with the sole objective of delivering a petition, rejecting the commission.
The petition had several demands owing to the collapsed service delivery, the inconsistent billing system, and the continued re-appointment of illegal commission running the affairs of Harare.
One demonstrator, Makwiridza Shumba Musarurwa, 60, of Hatcliffe expressed disappointment at the way some people scurried for their safety after some baton-stick wielding policemen pounced on them.
Residents in Budiriro, Dzivarasekwa, Highfield, Hatcliffe and Mabvuku have organised themselves for the visible and popular peaceful protests at City of Harare district offices. In all these actions, the residents carried bucketfuls of raw sewerage, piles of garbage and poured them in and around the offices of the District Officers.
These were merely tactical responses to an overwhelming crisis. Strategies are being developed to enhance our fight for transparent, accountable and legitimate local governance in Harare and Zimbabwe.
CHRA has also advocated for a total rates boycott, legal challenges; and peaceful street demonstrations, which have succeeded beyond our expectations. The Government owes City of Harare $1, 47 billion while the residents owe the municipality $6, 62 Billion, thanks to our rates boycott campaign. Some undisclosed creditors owe the City of Harare $130 billion.
The resolution to the crisis of local governance in Harare will be incomplete without addressing the national crisis where the Executive has subverted the judiciary and the legislature in terms of implementation and interpretation of the Constitution.
The national crisis is centred on President Robert Mugabe’s headstrong attitude towards good governance. The President has become the national constitution where everything starts and ends.
The crisis at Town House cannot be resolved without Mugabe’s approval, for now. He could direct Chombo to order mayoral and council elections in Harare.
Residents, backed by the media, civil society and the international community have the capacity to bring Harare to its knees through rates boycott. The solution does not lie in CHRA castigating or denouncing Makwavarara and Chombo.
The solution to our multiple problems lies with Zimbabweans uniting against President Mugabe through collective action. Words alone will not resolve our issues but sustained deeds.

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