Patrick Chitumba, Midlands Bureau Chief
IN the heart of Gweru, a booming population has resulted in a dire lack of basic amenities, with some areas going for months without water.
The infrastructure put in place in the 1950s is now proving insufficient to serve the city’s 1,2 million inhabitants, and President Mnangagwa has called for local authorities to plan ahead for population growth, so that service delivery is not affected.
In his acceptance speech after the Freedom of the City conferment by the City of Gweru at the Civic Centre at the Town House yesterday, President Mnangagwa spoke about the importance of clear development plans, and emphasised that planning regulations and by-laws must be transformative in line with changing socio-economic trends and demographics.
“While I recognise the fact that not all challenges can be resolved in one day, all local authorities must, however, have clear development plans to enhance service delivery and foster incremental development. Local authorities planning should be ahead of population growth to ensure that service delivery is not affected as is the common sorry state of affairs in councils across the country,” he said.
President Mnangagwa said sound corporate governance systems, integrity, honesty and orderliness are essential traits for those holding public office in local authorities and indeed across the political spectrum.
“Mayor (Councillor Hamutendi Kombayi) mentioned that the water and reticulation system they are using was meant for about 300 000 people and now there are about 1,2 million people. If the council had planned in anticipation of the surge in population, then the challenges being faced now would be minimum,” he said.
Furthermore, the President said planning regulations and by-laws should be transformative in line with the changing socio-economic trends and demographics.
President Mnangagwa said as society and cities expand, develop and modernise, it is incumbent upon local authorities to provide adequate designated industrial zones, factory shells, market areas and stalls for emerging businesses and residents.
“I also call upon the private sector to embark on various corporate social responsibility programmes for the benefit of their customers and the communities in which they operate. The National Clean-up and Beautification Programmes should be taken seriously and see the ambience of Gweru improving,” he said.
President Mnangagwa said Gweru, the home to the Midlands State University (MSU), Mkoba Teachers’ College and Gweru Polytechnic College, among other strategic national institutions, must leverage on the institutions’ capabilities and competencies to implement the Smart City Concept and modernise the city.
He said information and communication technologies and other contemporary strategies must be effectively deployed to accelerate the modernisation of the city.
“The talented young girls and boys at the innovation hubs and industrial parks should be tasked to come up with solutions which enhance service delivery,” said President Mnangagwa.
He challenged local authorities to ride on the Government’s engagement and re-engagement policy to establish partnerships and twinning arrangements.
President Mnangagwa said both rural and urban councils must equally attract investment towards the growth of the provincial gross domestic product.
“Capital goes where it feels safe, hence, I challenge you to improve your ease of doing business environment in line with the national barometer and global best practices. As you do so, always keep the residents continuously engaged and dialogue open, as opposed to restricting interactions with them during the budget formulation process. As we entrench democracy, participatory governance and private sector-led development in our country, our people’s voices must be heard, and their views are taken on board,” he said.
President Mnangagwa said given that the City of Gweru is made up of councillors from different political parties, backgrounds and persuasions, the Freedom of the City conferment is an indication that the decision was apolitical.
He said it is also a demonstration that the country’s democracy is maturing and some political leaders across the political party divide are able to act objectively for the broader national good.
“This is what it should be. We are all Zimbabweans, and this is our only home. Congratulations Gweru, through this act, you further attest to the fact that there is much more that unites us, no matter our party preferences,” said President Mnangagwa.
He said the same spirit should permeate throughout the country even as the country gears up for the upcoming elections.
“Let us remain united, preaching peace, love and harmony among our people. I recall when I was growing up, during the time of the oppressive colonial administration, when this City was then called Gwelo, we were not privileged to work and move freely in towns and across the country as a whole,” said the President.
He said following the protracted liberation struggle and the sacrifices made by the gallant sons and daughters of the soil, the people regained their land and, ultimately attained independence, freedom and democracy as free men and women of Zimbabwe.
“This honour, which has been bestowed on me is, thus, a tribute to the sacrifices of all the gallant sons and daughters who fought for our independence, to build peace, unity and ultimately the development of our great motherland, Zimbabwe,” said President Mnangagwa.
He said Gweru is known as the City of Progress, as such urged Clr Kombayi and councillors to ensure that the mantra is translated to realities on the ground.
“I am aware that various areas within the City need improvement. The delivery of quality water and sewer infrastructure, roads, ICTs, waste management and refuse collection, public lighting, as well as other critical services for our people must be scaled up. As the provincial capital of Midlands Province, much is expected from the City Fathers. Gweru must indeed progress,” he said.
President Mnangagwa said the Second Republic remains available to exchange progressive ideas towards transforming cities and the country as a whole. However, he said, it is the local authorities which must live up to their primary mandate of delivering responsive and people-centred quality services at the community level.
“In view of the evident shortcomings within local authorities to collect and prudently utilise resources of ratepayers, my Government is in the process of availing financial resources for the improvement of water and sewer reticulation systems, rehabilitation and development of roads, ICTs, refuse removal and public lighting, among others. The welfare of the people of our great country remains paramount,” said President Mnangagwa.
He said it is encouraging that devolution funds availed under the Devolution and Decentralisation Programme have resulted in beneficial, people-centred projects.
“Let us not tire and continue on this positive course so that all citizens across the country within both rural and urban local authorities, have access to reliable services,” said President Mnangagwa.
Going forward, he said he has tasked the Ministers responsible for Local Government, Finance, the Public Service Commission and representatives from his office, to continuously review the inter-Governmental fiscal transfer model.
Notwithstanding this, President Mnangagwa said local authorities must be proactive and scale up efforts to collect revenue and prioritise the implementation of programmes and projects.
“The resident and ratepayer of Gweru deserves better and should see value for the rates, fees and charges that they pay. Nyika inovakwa, inotongwa nevene vayo, Ilizwe lakhiwa libuswe ngabaninilo. There is no turning back. Zimbabwe shall be a prosperous and empowered upper-middle-income economy by 2030, no one and no place will be left behind, including the City of Gweru,” he said.