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Residents Threaten to Oust Sitting Councilors

Problems, like a lack of clean water in Harare, are leading many voters to say they want a clean slate this election.
As political parties move to ensure that the candidates they field for Parliament are well qualified, Harare residents say candidates for city council must also be scrutinized.

At a meeting organized Friday by the Harare Residents Trust, the major parties were urged to select knowledgeable and competent people to contest in the forthcoming elections.

Residents met to review service delivery and discuss the performance of city councilors in power since the 2008 election. Many people came forward to say that the councilors had not performed up to expectations and that most of them should not be retained.

Residents like Garikai Mabheka of Kuwadzana extension and Silvia Bhakisoro of Mabvuku said they are so disappointed by the current crop of councilors that they would like to see new people elected.

“There are many of those we call to attend meetings but they don’t come,” said Ms. Bhakisoro. “It’s like they are scared of us when in fact we are the ones who chose them. In this coming election, we are now thinking of voting in the youths and forget about you, the old ones. That is what we are thinking. When we elect the young generation, they may do the job well because they have the energy.”

Precious Shumba, the director of the Harare Residents Trust, said most Harare City councilors spent much of their terms unaware of their duties, which made it naturally difficult for them to perform to expectations, but even after training many councilors disappoint.

“Most of the councilors were in total darkness about their roles and responsibilities,” explained Mr Shumba. “However, through some trainings that were conducted by the Urban Councillors Association of Zimbabwe, we realized that there was slight improvement. However, we still have around 50%...we give them 50% rating on performance because they have failed to articulate residents’ issues and pursue policies that would address residents’ problems.”

Nonetheless, Mr. Shumba said, the trust will ask political parties—especially the MDC-T, which controls Harare—to drop inexperienced and “corrupt” candidates in the upcoming election.

“We are going to approach the MDC-T, which has the biggest chances for electoral victory, telling them that we do not want them to bring back councilors that failed to perform in the last council,” Mr. Shumba said. “We do not want councilors that were linked to corrupt activities. We would want them [the MDC-T] to try new people—more experienced and more passionate about community development.”

Studio 7 called Harare city council chief whip Victor Chifodya to react to the criticisms, but Mr. Chifodya was unavailable.

However, there are signs that the MDC-T is taking residents’ anger seriously. In May this year the party reportedly blocked Deputy Mayor Emmanuel Chiroto and some city councilors alleged to be corrupt from standing for reelection. Local Government Minister Ignatius Chombo has even suspended or fired several councilors from office for alleged corruption.

Given the extent of urban problems, including the lack of clean water, the poor state of roads, and a perceived decline in service delivery, councilors across the country will undoubtedly face a similarly discontented electorate as harmonized elections sometime this year approach.