WARD 41 residents this week discouraged each other against boycotting the City of Harare’s pre-budget meetings called to formulate the capital city’s 2022 financial budget.
Some residents had urged fellow ratepayers to boycott the virtual meeting because City of Harare officials were not providing them with relevant and adequate information to help them make meaningful contributions during the pre-budget process.
But other ratepayers warned against taking such a stance as they risked missing out on an opportunity to make their position known to the municipality regarding issues affecting Ward 41.
A resident and former Ward 41 Councillor Mrs Kudzai Kadzombe told fellow ratepayers that the budget meeting was a crucial process and residents needed to participate. She said if residents chose to ignore the process they should not complain over non service delivery.
“If you choose silence then there should be no complaints when you have no service delivery.
“I totally disagree with that school of thought, these budget processes are key for us to plan, implement and review performance of service delivery in our ward. (the) rainy season is coming we need street lights, consistent refuse collection, we are also approaching October and normally water supplies dwindle we need to make sure at ward level our issues are covered in the budget. All suburbs should be represented in here and we help each other build our community.
“I am glad with the level of participation of residents in the group if we own the processes, we will yield the fruits,” she said.
However, some residents felt that even after participating in the budget process nothing seemed to change as their input was not taken on board.
“There was still no action even after our input during the last two years anyway, nothing to show despite our efforts. Even when there were 50 people (they) still spoke out and council was not forthcoming with information. Right now most people are at work and will not be available at 10am. Clearly this process is just being stage managed as usual to rubber stamp the budget. In the past these meetings were done after hours why change now?” queried a resident.
Chipped in another ratepayer:
“I personally think that we should not let ourselves do something just because we want something please. If there’s no change for the past two years what makes everyone think there will be now, please let’s be frank enough on this one. Residents are on this platform not to wait for budget presentation but to see your mindset because they have been on these platforms from long back and you did nothing as per the presentation, come on people let’s be frank of the intentions.”
But Mrs Kadzombe said residents should desist from being pre-occupied with the past and seek to change the future.
“Council budget meetings have always been done during working hours, even if it was on a Saturday it would be during working hours. If we want to dwell in the past and not change the future, then surely we will be to blame for lack of service delivery in our ward. When the budget is published for public input at the district office, we would normally get not more than five people coming through to view it and make comments even we wanted to make that number into a percentage what would it be, would that be the voice of Ward 41? I don’t think so,” she said.
Other residents suggested making use of by-laws to take council to task over its decisions, policies or programmes and force the municipality to reform instead of boycotting.
“Guys you have to realise that by-laws are there to safeguard both council and residents so this attitude of non-compliance coming from council can change if we as residents decide that we will hold them to account. The thought that we have no power is a lie. These guys work the way they do because we have decided not to take responsibility. If we do, this attitude will disappear quickly. We should not watch our neighbourhood die. Most of the council employees actually want to work however we as residents are not giving enough support or their bosses (are) also not giving them resources we need to get to the real issue and unblock that so that performance is a matter of principle not choice,” argued another participant in the meeting.
The meeting also heard that all the options available to residents to make council officials comply to their demands should be outlined.
“They are banking that we will do nothing given the numerous action options available.
“We have numerous options guys. Why don’t you lay them down because most of us feel like it’s just a staged (rubber) stamp strategy,” said a resident.
Mr Jackson Murimi, from the Chamber Secretary’s Office who was facilitating the meeting, urged residents to check the information the council officials had provided for a fruitful discussion.
“Mode did you check on the revenue collection efficiency percentage shared above? Please do so that when we engage at 10 we will have an objective and honest discussion. But thanks for the heads up,” said Mr Murimi.
Last week, the Ward 7 Residents Association in Avondale boycotted budget consultation saying the municipality does not believe in consultation but just a cosmetic act to appear to be fulfilling the process when it is not. The residents said council does not timely provide information to help them participate in the budget meetings.