PRESIDENT Mnangagwa has urged Parliament to promptly deal with laws to bring into line the Devolution and Decentralisation Programme being pursued under the Second Republic.
The President was delivering the State of the Nation Address to mark the official opening of the Fifth Session of the Ninth Parliament of Zimbabwe at the New Parliament Building in Mt Hampden on Wednesday.
“The Fifth Session must speedily consider legislation towards alignment of the Devolution and Decentralisation Programme of the Second Republic, through amendments of the Provincial Councils and Administration Act; the Rural District Council’s Act; as well as the Regional, Town and Country Planning Act. The Disaster Risk Management Bill will promote the involvement of all citizens in effective disaster preparedness, mitigation, response and recovery measures.
“The session comes ahead of the 2023 Harmonised General Elections. Parliament is, therefore, expected to accelerate the completion of the matters on the legislative agenda in line with the expectations of the electorate,” said President Mnangagwa.
President Mnangagwa’s plea for Parliament to speed up laws should come as good news to residents of the northern suburbs of Harare who have been at the forefront of appealing for the devolution and decentralisation of services to ensure citizens are empowered at the local level to work with officials in spearheading development in their areas.
The newly formed Harare Ward 17 Residents’ Association (HW17RA) says decentralisation is key to service delivery. The residents’ body has stressed the urgent need to decentralise service delivery.
HW17RA members believe that once district offices across the city are allowed to run their own affairs they can be properly assessed and audited.
Mt Pleasant resident and one of the focal people who pushed for the formation of the residents’ association Mr Lance Nkomozepi said it will be easier for accountability if district offices are allowed to run their own affairs and focus on localised development.
He said the one size fits all system has failed residents as they have issues in Mt Pleasant that are unique to their neighbourhood and may not apply to other districts.
“The district offices are doing their best under the circumstances. The challenge where we believe the services are lacking is the governance side of the city where decisions are being made for a greater Harare and not for a specific district. For example, one of our roads is in a sorry state because it’s used by heavy vehicles ferrying quarry and all the dump trucks of the city (going to Pomona dumpsite). Such projects to rehabilitate and widen a road like Alpes need to be prioritised before Lunar Road in Borrowdale from Crowhill, Horgerty Hill to a quite stretch leading to Umwinsidale. That’s one example. Therefore, we feel as residents that the sooner we get decentralised the better. In that system it’s easier to measure the performance of our district office. That way the districts are accountable and the priorities are distinctive,” said Mr Nkomozepi.
Mr Nkomozepi said residents have a lot of questions over certain new developments and the prioritisation of service delivery provision but they have no one to turn to as many of the decisions are made at Town House not at the ward’s district office.
“We have questions about how some of the decisions are made in the area. But you would find some approvals on developments are done in town (at Cleveland House) and we do not know how much due diligence was done in the processes. There is a property on Alpes Road, the same road I mentioned as a busy thoroughfare. This double storey property is being built beyond the building lines not leaving any provision for the border or road expansion. It’s encroaching on the border of the road. One wonders how such oversight (can be) on the part of the inspectors, who these are and why a property is allowed to be so close to the road? These and other illegal developments are affecting our community but are being approved elsewhere. We need all these decisions made locally under one roof, so we can object. What is the probability of a sitting district officer and a localised team going about authorising such a project without knowledge of the residents?” questioned Mr Nkomozepi.
The double storey building, which is a shopping complex, being built at the corner of Teviotdale and Granta close to Alpes Road in Vainona has ignited fierce debate among residents of Ward 17 who are questioning the legality of the structure
In their discussions, HW17RA members believed that decentralisation could be the answer to the current service delivery woes.
The residents noted that the centralisation of services had led to the crumbling of services in cities and towns as ratepayers who religiously pay their rates and bills were subsidising the perennial defaulters.
The one city concept had destroyed service delivery in cities and towns, the residents further argued saying each ward should have its own distinct budget.
Since Mt Pleasant residents were already maintaining their own roads without the help of the City of Harare, cleaning up and putting up road signs, residents said they should adopt the Borrowdale Brooke model to deal with service delivery issues. The Borrowdale Brooke Estate manages its own services under the banner of the Borrowdale Brooke Home Owners Association which is part of the bigger Borrowdale Ratepayers and Residents Association (BRRA). The BRRA has signed an agreement with Harare under which it repairs and maintains two refuse trucks dedicated to collect refuse in Ward 18 (Borrowdale) and Ward 42 (Hatcliffe)
“Residents need to understand that all these arrangements we are making with City of Harare are towards decentralisation of services in order for us to take control of our facilities and services. Devolution will not be handed to residents wholesome but it is a process characterised by these developments we are working on every now and again,” said BRRA chairperson Mr Robert Mutyasira.
In his State of the City Address (SOCA) in July, Harare Mayor Councillor Jacob Mafume also acknowledged the fact that Harare had grown and could no longer be administered from one central point.
Cllr Mafume said decentralisation requires capacitation in terms of the workers’ skills, plant and equipment.
“Decentralisation of service delivery: The city has grown and cannot be administered from the centre. What this calls for is the empowerment of the district officers so that they can play their roles fully in terms of ensuring services are closer to the people. My council will be pursuing this with a view of ensuring that the local district offices are able to provide solutions to the service delivery problems in our city. This requires capacitation in terms of human resources, plant and equipment and the skills,” he said in his SOCA.