Residents raised a lot of pertinent issues that had a bearing on service delivery and governance. However, of paramount importance was the stance taken by the minister regarding the unorthodox distribution of land, which has been judged by many as a political move, meant to dilute the dissenting opposition vote. The Minister responsible for water, Mr Saviour Kasukuwere attended the meeting only for 5 minutes and sneaked his way out without saying anything.
Issues raised by residents in brief
The most common issue raised by residents was the issue of illegal structures, development of sub-serviced stands and unsanctioned public works. The areas that were sighted thereof included Warren-Park and Kambuzuma. In Kambuzuma, the Joshua Nkomo housing cooperative has been allocating stands which go as far as 5 meters away from a main water reservoir which supplies Warren Park and Kambuzuma. The stands pose a real threat to the balancing of the reservoir which could simply collapse at any time.
The minister’s response was that councillors should make sure that all construction complies with council by -laws and are approved.
Harare has two types of land. Firstly we have land that Harare City Council purchases and develops or distributes to the local residents. Secondly we have land that belongs to the State, commonly known as State land. The majority of this State land is at the centre of most of the land squabbles reported to CHRA and by the media. So it defies logic to argue that Harare City Council has been distributing State land, which suggests that the minister did not give a sincere response to this question.
Construction on wetlands
Residents of Kuwadzana and Westlea raised the issue of wetlands being destroyed to pave way for public works and various buildings. The areas sighted included the Hotel located next to the National sports stadium. Residents demanded to be first consulted before such constructions take place because the same residents will bear the brunt of a failed ecosystem. The Minister deliberated avoided to give a response to this question.
The issue of the Chinese hotel and shopping mall built close to the national sports stadium has been topical for quite some time. To begin with, residents did file objections to the development of that area. Further to that, no prior environmental impact assessment was done instead the E.I.A report was only done after construction of the hotel had started. This calls for a serious enquiry into the processes surrounding construction of open land.
$144m credit loan from China
Harare City council was asked on whether they first consulted residents before borrowing funds on their behalf. Residents demanded to know the following:
• The re-payment plan
• Why the City of Harare Hired Chinese engineers instead of locally based engineers
• Why all the equipment has to come from China
This question was responded to by both the Town clerk and the Minister. The town clerk began by justifying the engagement of the Chinese by simply noting that it was informed by the need for a technology transfer process since the system to be used was designed in China. Secondly he sighted the process of obtaining borrowing powers in which he said that when this call for borrowing was advertised in the press, they did not receive any overwhelming objections to that effect. The Minister then added that under the said transaction, himself and Hon Tendai Biti had to append their signatures as guarantors for the fruition of the deal. He also noted that the challenge with getting loans from other countries is the conditions associated with these deals which also include purchasing of equipment from those countries as well as I.C.T material.
Despite both responses coming from the two, there is need for us to underscore the fact that this deal was fast- tracked during the time when there were no elected councillors since they were waiting for their inauguration. Could they (Council technocrats) not wait until such a time when councillors would have been inaugurated to provide for checks and balances?
Secondly, the system meant to review objections of Council proposals by the public is wholly reliant on the internal human resources of council. The minister asked a question as to whether Harare City Council had to call for a town hall meeting to solicit the views of residents in connection with the deal. Our response to that is a big yes, because of the following reasons:
• We are the ratepayers so we demand to know how our money is used.
• We are going to be involved in one way or the other in the repayment of the loan so we definitely need to track and review the effect of the repayment process on service delivery.
• We have always demanded to be involved at each and every level of decision making in council and we shall always do so.
• Our belief is that such deals should be there to provide for more employment opportunities and that it contravenes the logic for local economic empowerment and development by employing external human resource.
Dangerous Waste management practices
Residents of Westlea complained about Golden-Quarry dumpsite. Golden-Quarry dumpsite is being used to dispose toxic waste. Companies such as ZMC are discharging harmful waste and last year, a poisonous substance was discharged which saw many residents falling sick because of that phenomenon.
The minister asked the town clerk to respond adding that there could be other deadly chemicals being disposed as well. The town clerk started by stating that Golden Quarry was officially closed and those that are discharging waste are doing it illegally. He promised the residents of Westlea that Harare City Council would be deploying municipal police details immediately to arrest the perpetrators.
We welcome the proposal by the town-clerk of deploying police details to ensure the incarceration of anyone disposing harmful waste or any other waste since the place has been officially closed due to its proximity with Westlea. However, council need to improve on its waste management practices especially in market places such as Mbare musika and Lusaka Market in Highfields. CHRA has since started to do deliberate waste management activities in these areas using the waste to do community peace gardens.
The meeting in picturesPost published in: News