Patrick Chitumba, Midlands Bureau Chief
Urban Councils Association of Zimbabwe (UCAZ) has commended Government for mobilising funds to rehabilitate roads in towns and cities which are littered with potholes.
Incessant rains that have been pounding the country for the past months have worsened the damage on the roads leading to Government declaring the country’s road network a State of Disaster to trigger resource mobilisation.
Government is providing funds to rehabilitate the country’s roads including roads in urban areas which had long been abandoned by local authorities.
The Zimbabwe National Road Administration (Zinara) collects road toll fees and disburses the funds to councils but some of the money has been diverted to other uses.
In an interview yesterday, the president of UCAZ, Councillor Josiah Makombe who is also the Mayor of Gweru commended Government for coming in to assist local authorities rehabilitate roads.
He said if it is corruption in local authorities that is affecting service delivery, then the law must take its course.
“If service delivery has been affected by corruption, then the law must take its course. We loathe corruption as UCAZ and perpetrators must be brought to book,” said Clr Makombe.
“Let me hasten to say some of the comments made by the Government are correct (that local authorities are in shambles). However, as UCAZ, we have also engaged the Government, we have had meetings with the President(Cde Mnangagwa), with the Minister of Local Government and Public Works,(Cde July Moyo) and we have presented the challenges we are facing as local authorities”.
He said President Mnangagwa acknowledges that some of the challenges are not of councils’ making. “For instance the issue of road maintenance, we all agree that Zinara is not doing well. Since they took over the licensing from local authorities, we all agree that the disbursement methods are favouring rural local authorities. We agree that there is rampant corruption at Zinara and some of its executives are in courts right now. Money is being looted at Zinara and it’s not a secret,” said Clr Makombe.
He said money that is allegedly being abused by officials at Zinara is supposed to benefit local authorities.
“That is the money that was supposed to be disbursed to local authorities and so it becomes very difficult to say that local authorities are failing without considering such issues. We need support from Government and we welcome this gesture to repair and rehabilitate our roads,” said Clr Makombe.
He said delays in disbursing devolution funds was also affecting councils’ service delivery.
“Look at the issue of devolution, the issue of devolution funds. We are allocated funds and the money never comes on time. For example, some of the 2020 devolution funds were only received by local authorities this year and how then do we manage service delivery? lThere are a lot of issues which we as local authorities and Government need to sit down and solve. The blame game will never take us anywhere. We have challenges and we expect some to be addressed by Government,” he said.
Zinara’s spokesperson Mr Tendai Mugabe said the role of the authority is to collect and disburse road toll fees to relevant authorities.
“Our role is to fix road user fees and then collect those road user fees. After collection, we then disburse the funds to the Department of Roads in the Ministry of Transport and Communication, the District Development Fund, urban and rural councils,” he said.