Home » General » ’City Must Avoid Unnecessary Bush Fires’ [interview]

The City of Harare has been beset by problems ranging from water shortages to pollution and allegations of misappropriation of funds. Our Senior Reporter Innocent Ruwende engaged Harare Mayor councillor Bernard Manyenyeni on these and other issues.

It is nearly a year after being sworn in as mayor of Harare, what is your vision for the city and have you managed to push that agenda?

My vision is for a city that delivers on its mandate in all areas of services by returning it to its former glory. As it stands we have a lot of work to do in changing how council runs.

Could you please update our readers on the current water situation in Harare? How far has the rehabilitation of Morton Jaffray Water Works gone?

The project is on course. It has attracted sustained mistrust and aerse reviews. Our duty is to mitigate the impact of its poor areas which are reports of possible over-pricing, duplication of budget items, and lack of independent supervision.

Could you respond to allegations that part of the money has been abused through inflating prices of equipment for the US$144,4 million loan agreement obtained from China?

The allegations have been noted and we are putting in a team to attend to those matters.

In a full council meeting on Thursday it was revealed that council officials may have diverted funds for the programme through the purchase of 25 vehicles. How far true are these allegations?

It’s being referred to the (investigating) team, the allegations have been noted. Management, in partial admission, has been inconsistent in terms of number of vehicles purchased.

Can residents trust council management with their money?

It has become an issue. Residents’ trust has been eroded by management over the years.

Harare is crying about pollution caused by industry, why did it take this long for council to complain about water pollution? Was it because the council was unaware or that it did not care?

The level of awareness has been progressing gradually – the discovery was not sudden. Such matters are not earthquakes the failure is regrettably gradual.

What happened to “the polluter pays principle”? What action has been taken to ensure those responsible for polluting water sources pay for the cleaning up?

I would have to come back to you regarding punitive measures and deterrents employed on pollution.

How far have you gone in your efforts to court partnerships which benefit the city?

We have exciting prospects all round. We are doing evaluations of all sorts of potential relationships almost every week. A Chinese city, Shenzhen, is willing to enhance co-operation with Harare in terms of many fields including trade, cultural exchanges and tourism among others.

I am excited about the positive feedback received from China. Our council will benefit from close ties with the third-largest city in the largest economy in the world. It has a fantastic record of transforming itself from being a small fishing village 30 years ago to such a mega city.

As Harare we are also re-examining our understanding of twinning because each relationship is different and also we are moving away from donor-twinning, where we present ourselves as a needy city all the time.

We are exploring relationships at par, fully realising that both as a city and as a country we do have things to offer which increase our appeal for partnering. Shenzen will be a superb addition to our family.

The (Zimbabwe) Embassy in (China) is now assisting with arrangements for a four-member delegation from the City of Shenzen to come. They are coming to Harare for a week for familiarisation. The dates will soon be confirmed.

We will also be signing an arrangement with Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. I am very excited about Addis Ababa because of their wonderful housing story of the past few years.

The engagements and contacts I made at the World Urban Forum in Colombia last month are encouraging, particularly for municipal financing and housing options. I also managed to reignite some of my predecessor’s links with useful municipal bodies and groupings.

From your time as mayor what do you think should change for service delivery to improve?

I would be grateful for the council to avoid some avoidable bush fires which take us out of focus as unproductive side-shows. We are without doubt the only approachable team left for residents to have hope to freely engage and to bring to account. With a collapsed economy the success of municipalities is limited. We do not operate in a vacuum we follow the fortunes of the country.

Are you satisfied with the revenue you are collecting from residents?

Our collections are below budget for a number of reasons, including genuine inability to pay, mindset problems emerging from the bills write-off of 2013 – some are waiting for a repeat while others are feeling short-changed for having been good payers – and the feeling of dejection over council’s failure to meet its service commitments, especially regarding water and refuse collection.

The residents are also frustrated that council officials are looting so there is need to reconnect with residents in areas of trust and participation is crucial for better revenue streams.

Residents should play their part and get involved by paying their bills.

They should know the local councillors and work with them and they should also stop pollution in all its forms including noise pollution, particularly from churches and bars.

They should be exemplary neighbours as individuals and business, and keep our staff clear of corruption by complying with all municipal laws.

Source : The Herald