Nqobile Tshili, Chronicle Reporter
BULAWAYO residents have come out guns blazing accusing local councillors of “rubber stamping” any decision made by the council management while ignoring genuine grievances from the people they represent.
Residents said Bulawayo is increasingly becoming one of the most expensive cities. They cited the recent decision to benchmark rates against the US dollar including the privately administered parking system recently introduced by the local authority.
The Bulawayo City Council (BCC) in partnership with a private company, Tendy Three International (TTI) introduced the new parking system in February. Under the arrangement council receives 30 percent of the collected parking fees while the company gets 70 percent.
Speaking to journalists in Bulawayo last Thursday, Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association (BPRA) administrator Mr Thembelani Dube accused councillors of being absent from their wards. He said it is also worrying to note that service delivery continued to decline in the city at a time the council is increasing its rates.
“BCC has been wantonly hiking rates and tariffs but it is failing to provide matching services.
“We had hoped that councillors would take a bold stand against this but most of them have strategically positioned themselves to benefit from the decisions taken by the technocrats,” said Mr Dube.
He said many councillors now own stands and properties around the city hence could not object to some of the decisions made by management which were against the people.
Bulawayo is also experiencing a serious water crisis that has seen some of the suburbs going for more than a week without water. The local authority has been struggling to collect refuse in eastern suburbs and littering has increased in the central business district.
“Councillors are our representatives since we are the ones who voted for them. The reason why we are saying we are now left alone is that very few councillors follow what they are supposed to be doing,” said Mr Dube.
He said the council introduced the US dollar indexed rates without consulting residents.
Mr Dube said the US$1 per hour parking charges have made Bulawayo one of the most expensive cities for motorists.
He urged council to consider charging US$1 parking per day saying it will help minimise congestion in areas that are not zoned for parking fees.
“The controversial parking charges have killed many small businesses. Abandoned parking bays and deserted streets tell a story,” said Mr Dube.
He said the issue of exorbitant parking fees has also affected businesses operating in the city centre.
“High parking rates will force customers to shop elsewhere. Most of the businesses affected actually pay rent to the council,” said Mr Dube
He said another area of concern was that council was demanding top up for purchased housing stands.
This is despite the fact that residents would have paid the full amount for the stands.
Mr Dube said BCC should also stop attaching residents’ properties over unpaid bills.
He said residents were also worried about the standards of the cleanliness in the city coupled with endless sewer bursts.
Bulawayo Mayor councillor Solomon Mguni attributed the council’s failure to address the challenges bedevilling the city to the inflationary environment.
“In all fairness, we are aware of the plight of the residents and the ever-depreciating macro-economic environment that the residents and businesses are operating under. The prevailing harsh economic environment has created animosity between residents and stakeholders,” he said.
Clr Mguni however said the measures council was taking were meant to save the city from total collapse in terms of service delivery.
“It’s true that the rates and taxes which are informed by tariff adjustments arising from inflation are beyond the reach of many,” he said.
He called for cooperation between the council and various stakeholders.
“We can only achieve our dream city if we pull together as residents. No one is spared from the harsh conditions that we find ourselves in,” said Clr Mguni.
He said despite the challenges, council was committed to providing services.
Meanwhile, residents said they are also worried by the increasing power cuts which have also affected health facilities.
Mr Dube urged the Zimbabwe Electricity Distribution Company ZETDC to stick to its load shedding timetable to avoid disruption in terms of service delivery.
The country has been experiencing increased load shedding due to the power deficit.
Mr Dube also called on the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education to review the Continuous Activity Learning Assessment (CALA).
This comes at a time when the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education is conducting a skilled based education curriculum review.
“Residents have stated that although it’s a good initiative, they feel learners are forced to spend too much time on it,” said Mr Dube. — @nqotshili