Citizens have a responsibilitgy

WHILE service providers such as the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA) and the City of Harare are responsible for providing and maintaining quality and affordable services to residents, citizens should appreciate their responsibility in service provision.

Citizens have a right to service delivery by all standards but should be responsible with services provided. Service delivery in Harare is on the verge of collapse and may easily become extinct if residents fail to take up their own responsibilities in maintaining the existing services.

One of the critical program priorities of the HRT is building a responsible citizenry. We note with concern a culture that is within the public towards its own environment. There have been reports of vandalisation of water and sewerage reticulation systems in communities such as Kambuzuma where residents were caught chopping a water carriage pipe in search of water.

Electricity cables are daily vandalised by known and unknown residents residing within our communities, driven by their greedy and narrow view of community belonging.

At a recent meeting on the Water Demand situation in Harare, Engineer Christopher Zvobgo, the Director of Harare Water indicated that the sewerage and water plants (Morton Jaffray and Prince Edward) have been affected by the use of grit (jecha) by residents.

This has caused many sewerage chokes which have pushed City of Harare to buy three pressure pumps to clear drainage systems. This is an additional cost on the part of the local authority and will be shouldered by struggling residents.

Persistent water shortages are mainly attributed to poor pumping capacity by Harare Water which is supplying 50% of the daily requirement of 1 200 mega litres required by residents in Harare, Chitungwiza and Norton.

The city claims that it requires $3 million for water treatment and purification every month, US$2 million for water chemicals and US$1 million for ZESA charges despite suffering power outages. Due to pollution being caused to water sources by industries which increase waste water, ten water treatment chemicals are used by Harare council as opposed to other local authorities like Mutare that use at most three treatment chemicals.

The water crisis has also been caused by countless and frequent water bursts in the CBD and suburbs. At one time there was a water burst near Town House along Jason Moyo Avenue. Citizens have to report minor and major bursts within 24 hours and this must be met by timely responses by council workers in the Harare Water works department. We cannot afford to waste the little water we have.

Refuse collection is inconsistent. Instead of dumping waste in open areas in our communities, most citizens are forced to resort to burning of waste at night or during the day, further polluting the environment, as an alternative.

While the responsibility to maintain a clean environment resides in the local authority, the public continues to cause excessive land pollution by throwing litter all over along the streets in the Central Business District. Mobile recharge cards from service providers are just used and thrown away along the streets, polluting the environment in the process.

What is Econet, TelOne and Telecel doing in return to ensure the waste they generate is properly disposed? Throwing away a piece of paper means an additional cost to the council, just as it is significant for one to properly dispose of waste in provided refuse bins along the streets in the CBD.

Consequently council employees in their overalls and work suits are seen sweeping streets which have been heavily littered by the public each morning. These women and men are often seen burning so much litter in skip bins at community bus termini such as the one near the Harare Central Police Station, at Rezende Bus Terminus, Market Square among other places which is causing air pollution therefore dilapidating the ozone layer.

What will become of our environment if everyone neglects their key responsibilities of playing their part? There is now serious debate and talk on climate change issues. These are largely man-made disasters, which could be greatly minimised if all citizens think about their environment before they litter?

Commitment on the part of council to enforce by-laws, fining irresponsible motorists and pedestrians who throw litter everywhere is limited. There is need to transform the mind set. If this continues Zimbabwe remains far from attaining the MDGs especially goal 7- Ensuring Environmental Sustainability.

As part of a process, citizens can become heavily involved in their communities by among other small interventions, getting to know their councillors, who they really are, what they can do to address certain policy problems and demanding simple updates on what they have done to improve service delivery at ward level. Because they have become councillors by virtue of your vote in the 29 March 2008 Harmonised Elections, they have a responsibility towards you as a resident who pays rates to the City Council.

As a citizen, it is your responsibility to make your councillor know that he/she is not your boss but your servant, who must inform you of whatever council is doing to address your problems. Would it not be unfair to let a full five year term of your councillor pass without knowing them or what they have done for you but to only see their name or seeing another candidate willing to take you for another ride on the ballot paper?

Most of all, residents have a responsibility to pay for their rates.

The service delivery policy of the HRT does not side with residents who default payment of rates. Residents of Harare expect a service and for services to be delivered, council, ZESA and other service providers require our money as ratepayers. Although there has been abuse of rate payers’ money, residents across Harare owe the City of Harare close to 2.5 million dollars in debt.

This has partly crippled the capacity of council to deliver services to us. Nonetheless, while we have a responsibility to pay council we should only pay for services rendered as per our policy. The local authority should also deserve our monies and this can be demonstrated by improving service provision, attending to our small reports, and more importantly by responding in time to our demands.

It is time to act, time for a change in the mind set and for a collaborative effort in service provision. Let us work together and get Harare working again!

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