Councillors battle to serve Mutare residents

brian_jamesCommitted to transparency, democracy, accountability
MUTARE - The City of Mutare is fighting to restore its status, which had collapsed due to the maladministration and corruption by the previous Zanu (PF) run-council. (Pictured: Brian James)

During its three years in power, and despite political interference by Zanu (PF) and Minister of Local Government Ignatius Chombo, the MDC-T dominated and democratically elected council is working tirelessly towards rebuilding the jewel city of Manicaland.

We have embarked on holistic strategies that will see us progressing in terms of service delivery. We are working on strategies that include Water and Sanitation, Roads and Housing. We are therefore appealing to the Ministry of Finance, RBZ, World Bank and other financial communities to assist us to implement them, said Brian James the Mayor of Mutare in an exclusive interview with The Zimbabwean last week.

James said the council was looking at securing long term loans and grants from financial institutions so that it could embark on massive upgrading of the citys structures.

Residents have commended the MDC-T council for a job well done in terms of service delivery.

Major roads had become impassable death traps because of potholes that had turned into gullies, but now we appreciate that road maintenance work has vastly improved. We have seen some roads being tarred and patched. This is wonderful – at least we are seeing some changes in our city, said Hilary Mangenje a senior resident.

Another resident, Kenneth Kushure, said: At least we can see that the money we are paying for rates is being put into good use. Refuse is now being collected and the city is clean. There is a great improvement. When the Zanu (PF) commission used to run the city it was in tatters, but we have confidence in the present council.

SIDA gave the City of Mutare $1 million for development in various areas and repairing the citys fleet, which had been grounded due to lack of spare parts.

This has enabled us to buy refuse equipment and to collect 95 percent of the garbage in the city, though we still have some residents with ulterior motives who are still throwing garbage everywhere. It was an opportunity for the city to get back on its feet and deliver better service to its residents, said James.

He said the council was still working tirelessly to make sure that all roads in the city were upgraded.

We are facing financial challenges but we are trying our best to improve the road network. We are going to embark on internal training of our staff at the roads department so that we work on improving the road degradation. We are going to tender three or four companies to build our roads, added the Mayor.

He applauded the residents who had freely volunteered to help in various community projects – especially refuse collection, road and drainage clearing.

I would like to thank the public for their assistance especially during the time that we went into office in May 2008. We have seen some volunteers offering their vehicles and equipment to improve refuse collection. Some people in wards formed groups to clean their wards and provided clothing for this initiative, he said.

James said he would also ensure that the councillors and all employees continued to execute their duties in an open, transparent, democratic and accountable way.

Mutare City Council received $3m from the Ministry of Finance and according the Mayor it was used on water and sewerage management.

We resuscitated the Chikanga water reservoir that has seen water supplies in Chikanga suburb improving. We have contracted an engineering company (Worley Parsons) to rehabilitate broken water and sewer pipes. The company has been working on Christmas Pass water works down to Dangamvura suburb. We are waiting for the final $1m from the Ministry of Finance to complete the water works in the city, explained James.

The engineering company, Worley Parsons, has been unblocking the sewer pipes. James said the city has been losing about 50 percent of water through burst water pipes and faulty water meters, resulting in the city resorting to water rationing.

On health matters, James said the City of Mutare had completed 90 percent of the health standards as required by UNICEF.

We have done a lot in our clinics. We have seen more drugs coming our way though there is need for improvement. We are, however, facing some shortages in the nursing staff, he said.

To make sure that we improve on housing development, we have gone into a partnership with our twin city, Haarlem in the Netherlands, which will assist poor members of the community to access stands and build houses at reasonable charges, he explained.

James confirmed the city had identified 50 000 stands in the high density areas and 7 000 stands in low density areas.

He said the council was collecting about 70 percent of its revenue, which he said was good by Zimbabwes standards.

We are collecting about $1m a month from our residents and we have reduced the 2011 rates, he said.

We are currently in the process of formulating a public budget committee. It will be purely made of members from the public who will monitor our budgetary works, he added.

He said the council was owed $14m by its residents and was in the process of initiating an independent analysis of its debtors.

We are concerned of our poor people and we are looking at ways to help them. But there are also those who are refusing to pay due to other reasons, he said.

Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs) were doing very well, but James expressed grave concern at the closure of corporate companies.

Mutare Board and Paper Mills, Mutares once biggest employer closed shop last year while other big companies like PG Plate Glass (Pilkington), Zimboard and Cairns Foods also faltered.

There is nothing we can do to resuscitate these companies. We are concerned that the companies provided huge employment to our residents and we are calling on the relevant authorities to look into the matter, he said.

While James and his team work tirelessly, Ignatius Chombo and his team, which comprises un-elected Zanu (PF) Special Needs Councillors, are throwing spanners into the councils envisaged road to recovery.

Mutare City council is divided into two. The management committee has some managers that are aligned to Zanu (PF) while the councillors are all MDC-T members.

Some of the managers occupy influential positions in Zanu (PF) making it difficult for the council to pass important decisions. There have been some serious clashes between management and councillors.

There are problems where we have seen the management doing their own thing while the councillors do theirs. But we know that all this is being influenced by Chombo. We have the Zanu (PF) appointed councillors and their provincial leadership who are interfering with our operations. However, MDC-T is a very strong institution. We have strong political leadership within the city and we believe in our core value of serving the people.

MDC-T is a peoples party and we believe in peoples power. The majority of the residents are with us and they know what we are doing as their councillors. We operate within our three principles which are transparency, democracy and accountability. We will never lose focus and we will stand firm on our principals as an MDC-T council. We are going to work hard to serve the people who put us in power. We will expose those who are blocking and delaying service delivery to our valued residents, said James.

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