Harare City councillors have lost direction

Towards the end of 2011, the media quoted Harare Mayor Muchadeyi Masunda urging city councillors to re-elect him to lead them for a second term. What this implies is that the Mayor is confident of his performance since coming into council, as an appointee of the MDC-T, symbolically elected by all elected councillors. But Harare residents did not directly elect him into office.

Much Masunda: The ideal thing would be a decent exit.
Much Masunda: The ideal thing would be a decent exit.

This is not about personalities but about performance of office holders in the City Council. For the record this is the same Mayor who has lambasted the calibre of councillors in Harare. While the Harare Residents’ Trust agrees with the mayor on this position, what boggles the mind is why someone who feels there is a huge mismatch in skills and experience between him and the majority of the councillors would still want to continue working with them. The ideal thing would be a decent exit, marking relief from the pain of working with incompetent subordinates, rather than seek another term.

For their part, the majority of the councillors in Harare have completely lost direction and are overwhelmed by their responsibilities and assumed powers. The councillors have repeatedly acted more like mercenaries than policymakers. They have failed to influence service provision. Instead they have been heavily involved in contests for power and authority over city workers and have been engaged in often dirty warfare with incumbent MPs. They have failed to convene community feedback meetings, updating residents of what they are doing on their behalf.

Officially councillors and the Mayor earn less than $220 a month. Except for a handful of councillors including the Mayor, the majority had nothing to their names like cars and houses at the time of their election. It is their lavish lifestyles that have attracted our attention now.

As the debate on whether or not to retain Masunda as Mayor gains momentum, the key issues include the policy direction the council seeks to take in 2012 and its ability to develop alternative strategies to mobilise resources to sustain its operations.

It is important to evaluate the performance of the council under Masunda, specifically how they have attempted to address the housing backlog, water delivery, road maintenance, health provision, environment management and waste disposal. In assessing the competences of the Mayor, there is need to critically examine his leadership style, his decisiveness when guiding policy discussions during full council meetings and obviously his handling of internal conflict among councillors, city managers and his appreciation of the challenges and opportunities facing the City.

The Mayor has consistently acted as if he is a legal consultant instead of being the lead official in policy formulation and decision making. That needs to change. I know Masunda has the capacity to lead but he needs to get away from populism and rhetoric.

Post published in: Opinions & Analysis

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