The City of Harare, through the 46 elected councillors, has decided to embark on what they are calling a city budget “consultation process” for the financial year ending 2012.
So far 23 such meetings have been held in Harare. Some of the meetings, for example in Greendale/ Mandara and Mount Pleasant, were cancelled due to seriously poor attendance while some have been rescheduled over and over again. This clearly shows poor leadership by elected councillors and that the public has lost confidence in any process by local authorities.
Budget meetings scheduled to be held in Mbare at Mai Musodzi Hall and Stodart Hall were cancelled because of the threat of violence by identified Zanu (PF) youths.
For argument’s sake, does the council not have people to update our councillors about what transpires in their respective areas? How can one claim to be representing the people when he/she is not aware of what transpired at such a crucial meeting? We really have a crisis of local governance in Zimbabwe.
Surely the budget consultation meetings have started on the wrong foot. What is most worrying is the content and structure of the discussions at these meetings. The sessions have been turned into pure service delivery meetings. City of Harare officials have avoided discussing the critical aspects of budget formulation like the cost of basic services such as water, refuse collection and accommodation, claiming that they would have another round of meetings where figures would be presented.
We are calling upon the City of Harare to revise its approach to the consultation process and, if possible, to start afresh. If we are to talk of affordability of council services and the capacity of council to raise adequate revenue from the rate payers, the budget should be well formulated and pro-poor. How is this possible?
Residents and council should propose possible rates of basic services and then we can negotiate based on priorities. We need a win-win approach to the budget.
The City of Harare is on its way to imposing an ill formulated, elitist, desk-centred and exorbitant budget on the rate payers. Councillors should mobilise residents in their wards for these meetings. It is time that council realizes the importance of real participation in such an important process! Let us be realistic and get Harare working again. – SIMBARASHE MAJAMANDA, ¬by e-mailPost published in: Letters to the Editor