THE Ministry of Local Government this week described as “political gimmicks”, ahead of the next elections in 2023, attempts by recalled councillors to insert themselves in affairs initiated by residents.
Minister July Moyo this week clarified the position of recalled councillors, saying they could not purport to represent residents because they were no longer councillors.
His clarification follows claims last week by recalled councillor for Ward 41, Mrs Kudzai Kadzombe, that she was the “communication channel” between the City of Harare and residents in Ward 41 in an initiative to restore street lights in Marlborough.
Mrs Kadzombe, in her claim published last week, said the repairs had “commenced ahead of the rainy season in order to improve visibility at night.”
But her claim was immediately met with “shock, anger and dismay” by residents — the originators of the initiative and drivers of the project.
Residents this week spoke of “shock and being disturbed” saying the former councillor does not have their mandate to “parachute” herself into the street lights rehabilitation project.
In their forthright condemnation, they accused her of attempting to “high-jack” a project started and run by residents.
Explaining the initiative, residents told The Suburban this week that a team of about 80 volunteers led by Mr Thabani Mhlanga and Mrs Olga Kunonga — both of them residents – conducted an assessment of the street lights in the suburb.
Mr Mhlanga’s role was in street name aggregation, data tabulation and analysis, while Mrs Kunonga led and directed the effort and constantly updated Engineer Calvin Chigariro of the City of Harare.
It is widely believed that it was at this point that the exercise could have been leaked and raises questions about the extent to which council officials continue to work with recalled representatives.
Residents said they initiated the exercise as part of measures to enhance security and combat crime at night in the ward, especially given the impending onset of the rains.
The exercise surveyed 63 roads in the suburb with a total of more than 360 street lights. The survey established that only 4,2 percent of the street lights are working. It also established that 18,4 percent of the light poles are missing or severely damaged.
Mrs Kunonga said she was shocked by both the report last week and what the former councillor claimed, adding; “I find it disturbing. After all the entire exercise we carried out, to get this…”
The “very final list” of the suburb’s street lights survey, Mrs Kunonga explained, was submitted to Engineer Chigariro on September 30, 2021. This was done because in earlier conversations with the city officials, she had been informed that the intention was to commence the repair/replacement exercise on October 1, 2021.
Mr Mhlanga said the entire exercise had taken two whole months to conclude. He described the claim by the former councillor as “unbelievable at best…”
But another resident was not so measured in her response, pointing out; “This is a good example of how politicians hijack your efforts as residents in order to try and gain political mileage.
“All I can say is don’t give up. Let’s keep working for our community. Very shameful indeed.”
Yet another resident, citing safety concerns and only identifying herself as Helen, said: “This was disturbing for sure. This so-called councillor never did anything meaningful for residents… she now wants to ride on the residents’ efforts. Very shameful.”
For Mrs Joyce Mtshani-Khumalo, the seed of the street lights was planted by the Ward 41 residents’ group.
“The main aim was to get street lights in Marlborough working because of an increase in crime.”
Mr Mhlanga explained that going forward, the goal is to have a database of all street lights with the aim of ensuring at least 90 percent are working.
“We will apply the same strategy to assess conditions of all roads in Marlborough and push the City of Harare to rehabilitate damaged roads. The same applies to reticulation infrastructure.”
While the former councillor claimed work had already started, there were conflicting responses from residents. Ms Rutendo Madziwa said council workers were repairing street lights in Sherwood Avenue, near Marlborough Primary School, and had already completed work in Loughborough Road and Sawley. However, there was no immediate independent verification or confirmation from residents.
Mrs Getrude Nazare, from Loughborough Road explained to Suburban: “What I know is our road from Windsor to Princess Margaret, some lights are working, and some are not.”
Ms Maureen Nyakudya from Marlborough West said that, “some workers were spotted coming from Churchill into Elizabeth Windsor. When asked if they were fixing the street lights, they said they were just assessing the damage. They said they might have to fix only the unworking lights in place and were not sure about missing poles and lights.”