Residents Council Update- Glen Norah May 2012

The Harare Residents’ Trust (HRT) yesterday convened its monthly Residents’ Council (RC) Executive meeting where residents’ leaders lambasted the City of Harare and the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA) Holdings for abusing their monopoly, through charging unnecessarily high rates while providing a shoddy service to their customers.

The RC, chaired by Tafara Residents Committee, deliberated on several key issues among them, the failure by the two public institutions to address the billing system to reflect actual consumption and not estimated billing, the calibre of the councillors in the City of Harare and their attitude towards service delivery, the failure of some parliamentarians from accounting for the Constituency Development Fund (CDF).

Reverend Onismo Mushonga, the RC Chair, being the Chairperson of the Tafara residents’ Committee said: “Residents of Harare will not sit and watch while service delivery continues to deteriorate. It is time that all service providers, especially ZESA, the City of Harare and the Police become more accountable and transparent in their handling of public affairs.”

Reverend Mushonga said as the HRT, it is important to rally the masses behind the organisation so that service delivery improves. If more people become aware of their rights, and they act on that, he said, this will make life difficult for errant service providers as residents will claim their rights.

Pretty Chabuda, the HRT Lobby and Advocacy Officer, who also attended the RC Executive meeting, said it was important for residents to take stork of their actions with regards to service provision before simply apportioning blame on others.

“The citizen has an equal responsibility in service provision,” she said. “The HRT is going all out in the communities to educate residents on how to record their water and electricity meters so that the services they are charged for are commensurate with the money they actually pay at the end of the month. Residents are urged to resist being forced to pay for estimated bills. The HRT urges residents to record their meters on a set date every month so that they pay for they know.”

Addressing the same meeting, the HRT Director Precious Shumba said the HRT had helped establish residents’ associations in Chegutu, Rusape, Kadoma and was in the process of rebuilding the Chitungwiza residents association so that by end of this year, residents, united for a noble cause, will have a major say in the running of local authorities. It was pointless to have only two or three powerful residents associations with some resources while the rest of the cities and towns across Zimbabwe had insufficient financial and material resources to organise residents to demand their rights within the local government sector.

Shumba said: “Nothing can stand in the way of light. If the HRT is the light of the people, as Jesus Christ is the light of the world, then darkness in local government has to be removed, through prayer and dedicated and consistent local government lobbying and advocacy. Once we have a vibrant residents movement, not only in Harare and Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s citizens will have a more meaningful role to play in the administration of their cities and towns.”

The RC Executive is made up of committee members Mbare, Jourburg Lines, Waterfalls, and Sunningdale, Kuwadzana Extension (Vice-Secretary), Tafara (Chairperson), Shortson (Treasury), Glen Norah (Vice Chairperson) and Highfield (Secretary.

Another key issue that emerged during the meeting was for the HRT to keep mobilising the residents to become members upon paying their one dollar as annual membership fees, paid to HRT suburban treasurers, community coordinators and through the HRT offices.

Other key issues to be vigorously pursued were issues of failed refuse collection, incompetent personnel in council, lack of representation by councillors and Members of Parliament (MPs), and the failure of the HRT to strongly stand up for the underprivileged in society like widows and orphans in terms of helping raise funds and resources to make the HRT more responsive to the challenges of communities.

Waterfalls Committee: They have produced a banner for publicity of the HRT in the area which they will put up at the Zindoga Shopping Centre. They also intend to highlight the issues affecting Waterfalls as a community especially the absence of public toilets at market stalls and challenges in waste management. The meeting resolved that the Membership Officer assists the committee to expand to other areas of Waterfalls like Mainway Meadows, Park Town and Derbyshire so that the HRT’s visibility is enhanced. The RC resolved that the HRT needed to work very hard to convince people in the low density suburbs to join in the struggle for quality and affordable services as there was a feeling that those with money neglected their responsibilities of lobbying for improved service provision with their counterparts from poor communities.

Political Standing and HRT Work: The Director raised the issue of political campaigns that are now visible in most communities. He said it was common knowledge that some people would want to try political offices, but they should not use HRT structures to achieve that. After this presentation, it was resolved that HRT committee members should not be closely involved in party politics as this compromised the work of the organisation. If at all an HRT committee member decides to be actively involved in party politics then there is need for them to publicly announce their resignation from the HRT and advise their respective committee that they want to pursue a political career.

HRT Women’s Initiative: Given the dynamics in community mobilisation, the meeting resolved that the social mobilisation activities like soccer and netball games and the choral competitions will be spearheaded by the HRT’s advocacy and women’s desks. The RC resolved that each suburban structure should gear itself to compete in these competitions, which will be adjudicated by experienced music adjudicators. However, to participate, the Women’s desk will determine how much in registration fees each choir will pay to participate.

Fundraising and Finance Committee: The RC Treasury recommended that a Finance and Fundraising Committee be set up to help mobilise resources for the HRT, given that the organisation is fast growing. The meeting adopted this recommendation and named Elizabeth Rutsate, the HRT Board Secretary, Albert Mazula, the HRT Board Treasurer and Armatus Rwazemba, the Chairman of the Shortson Residents’ Committee as some of the members while two other members drawn from other sectors of the economy and social movements will be identified to strengthen this initiative.

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