By Wisdom Mumera
President Emmerson Mnangagwa has set himself on a collision course with residents after his remarks that government will intervene in the affairs of City Councils a remark construed by many as the installation of commissions.
Speaking at Jenya Secondary School in Chivi on Wednesday where he addressed hundreds of people the Presidents said, “In terms of social services, if you go to Harare, Bulawayo or Gweru today, the situation is now very bad.
“Roads are worn out and heavily potholed among other problems and all these urban councils are run by the opposition MDC”.
“What the MDC has done to our cities and towns is embarrassing. It is very embarrassing and they have failed so much that even in some suburbs, they can go for weeks without running water. They have totally failed”.
“The problems obtaining in our towns and cities are because of failure by the MDC but as government we have already made a decision that we cannot sit idly while the situation deteriorate”.
As a solution Mnangagwa said, “We sat down and agreed to rescue the situation so that our cities do not collapse totally so soon something along those lines will start happening”, he added.
Government’s only alternative to intervene, at law, can only be through the installation of commissions which will replace the elected Councilors.
Residents Against Commissions
This has however already drawn the ire of residents whose organisations say the move historically has not worked.
In a statement the Combined Harare Residents Association (CHRA) said though it condemns all forms of corruption and graft and welcomed efforts by the state to fight corruption in Councils that did not warrant imposition of a commission.
“This is a serious threat to representative democracy, a move that is aimed at throwing citizens to the periphery of local governance.
“Any attempt to the abuse of Section 80 (1) (a) and (b) of the Urban Councils Act 29:15 by the Minister of Local Government through imposing a Commission to run the City of Harare is misplaced and has no place in any democratic society.”
Previously installed Commissions have fared badly and left Harare in a worse state than before.
Previous Commissions Have Been Disasters
According to CHRA the Chanakira Commission (1999-2001) clandestinely recruited 1235 employees and promoted people who were conncted to it.
“Makwavarara Commission (2004-2006) facilitated the ZINWA takeover of Harare Municipal Water Supply that saw total collapse of water supplies and sewer reticulation and thousands of people died of cholera during her era.
“(It) recommended the devastating Operation Murambatsvina and Ms Makwavarara used ratepayers’ money for her luxuries at the expense of service delivery and illegally bought a council house in Borrowdale for a paltry $780 million instead of $5,5 billion (Zimbabwe Dollars)”.
The Michael Mahachi Commission (2006-2007) is also accused of losing vast tracts of Council land in a US$90 million botched Airport Road deal with Augur Investments and Sewer reticulation plants collapsed.
Critics also argue that due to the absence of a mandate from residents and their allegiance to the appointing authority, which is government, Commissions tend to be weak in representing residents interests.