Bad roads, lack of water cause concern

Poor infrastructure and water shortages are the main service delivery problems that most Zimbabweans in both urban and rural areas face, according to a new survey.

The “Survey on Local Governance and Constitutionalism in Zimbabwe” was commissioned by the International Republican Institute and was conducted between late December 2014 and early January 2015 across the country with 1,215 respondents from both urban and rural areas.

Perceptions of citizen’s civic duties
Perceptions of citizen’s civic duties

“Nationally, the two most important service delivery issues to emerge were the poor state of the country’s infrastructure, roads mentioned in particular (33 percent), and a lack of water (28 percent), closely followed by the lack of clean water (12 percent),” reads the report.

Lack of water ranks as the most critical problem in urban areas, with 39 percent of the interviewed people bemoaning its acute shortage, according to the survey.

Cities and towns have since the early 2000s suffered severe water cuts caused by acute shortages of purification chemicals, lack of money to repair dilapidated infrastructure and widespread corruption and inefficiency within local authorities.

Chombo interfering

The local government ministry, headed by Ignatius Chombo, has taken much of the flak for interfering with the daily operations of municipalities on a party political basis.

Intermittent water supplies in urban areas were partly blamed for the 2008 cholera outbreak that killed more than 4,000 people, according to humanitarian agencies.

In rural areas, water shortages have been caused by successive droughts, inability to build reservoirs and a breakdown of boreholes, while many people have to travel long distances to fetch the precious liquid.

“For those in urban areas, a lack of water ranks as the most important problem (39 percent), followed by poor refuse collection and waste disposal (26 percent), and then closely by load shedding (power outages; 25 percent).

“In rural areas, Zimbabweans are most concerned about poor infrastructure (36 percent), the lack of water (23 percent) and insufficient agricultural support and advice (21 percent),” says the report.

Water affects women

Women, according to the report, are mostly concerned about the lack of clean water among other service delivery challenges while men are more concerned with poor infrastructure such as roads and dams.

In addition, rural dwellers were found to be facing more difficulties in obtaining identification documents than their urban counterparts.

In urban areas, 55 percent of respondents reported that it was easy to obtain a birth certificate, while 38 percent report it to be a difficult exercise. Seven percent of the sampled population admitted never trying to obtain the documents.

“Those in rural areas find it more difficult to get either a birth certificate or national identity card than do those in urban areas,” noted the report, which also cited poor refuse collection and waste disposal as a headache in urban areas.

Access to identity varies according to ethnicity, says the report. “Ndebele speakers…find it more difficult (57 percent with respect to a birth certificate and 38 percent regarding an identity card) than do Shona speakers (34 percent and 28 percent, respectively), with respective figures for minority groups (percent finding it very difficult or difficult) of 45 percent and 37 percent, respectively,” reads the IRI report.

More difficult for Ndebele

It follows that Ndebele speakers (the majority group in Bulawayo and in Matabeleland) find it more difficult (57 percent with respect to a birth certificate and 38 percent regarding an identity card) than do Shona speakers (34 percent and 28 percent, respectively), with respective figures for minority groups (percent finding it very difficult or difficult) of 45 percent and 37 percent, respectively.

The IRI study found out that load shedding was a major challenge in urban areas, while rural Zimbabweans were also concerned by insufficient agricultural support and advice.

Some 70 percent of Zimbabweans in rural areas depend on farming for income and livelihoods, according to agricultural experts.

Limited access to health care, high school fees and poor public transportation due to the inability by government to avail funds and inefficiency at public institutions are the other problems Zimbabweans face.

Donor fatigue

Zimbabwe is sitting on a time bomb as it depends on donors for more than 90 percent of its drug stocks at public health institutions. Donors have over the years shown increasing fatigue and the country could be exposed if they finally withdraw.

Reasons for poor service delivery expected from local authorities and government also include poor management, incompetence, overwhelming demand by citizens, corruption and poor maintenance of infrastructure.

“This poll attempts to measure the thoughts and beliefs of average Zimbabweans so that their elected officials, as well as local and traditional leaders, may have a better understanding of citizen concerns on a range of topics. We also explore the issue of constitutionalism and how Zimbabweans understand – and can better embrace – the principles stated in their constitution,” says Mark Green, the President of the IRI.

“While Zimbabwe has a long way to go in crafting a democratic path, IRI remains committed to providing the people of Zimbabwe with some of the democratic tools they will need along the way.

“While the challenges of working in Zimbabwe are numerous and complex, we believe it is worth the time and effort. A strong, democratic and prosperous Zimbabwe could do so much for the people of that beautiful country and the rest of the region.”

Measuring Constitutionalism

Although 70 percent of respondents were aware of the new constitution, only 28 percent of these had been educated on the values and contents of the new constitution.

Fifteen percent of respondents knew where to go to learn about the new constitution, most often citing government ministries, parliament, the police or elected officials (87 percent).

Respondents were asked to name the most important things in the new constitution:

• Women’s rights and gender equality (19 percent) – with no difference between men and women;

• Freedom of worship (12 percent);

• Children’s rights (nine percent);

• Right to education (eight percent);

• Human rights (eight percent);

• Right to justice (seven percent)

• Right to vote (seven percent); and

• At four percent each, freedom of expression, right to land and the forbidding of homosexuality.

Citizens’ Duties

Based on these survey results, the majority of Zimbabweans are civic-minded, agreeing that citizens have a duty to:

• Be informed about important issues (96 percent);

• Register to vote (88 percent) and to vote (92 percent);

• Influence government decisions (88 percent);

• Join a local community group (82 percent);

• Pay rates and taxes (72 percent); and

• Join a political party (68 percent).

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