FORMER Kwekwe mayor Angeline Kasipo says the operational challenges faced by most urban local authorities in the country are particularly challenging for opposition councillors.
Speaking in an interview, she said while opposition councillors can make a difference in councils, issues such as red tape, government interference in local government and general opposition councillors’ lack of preparedness to effectively deliver on their mandate are hampering service delivery.
She added that in its present state the Urban Councils Act gives too much power to the Local Government minister, rendering councillors powerless.
“The operating environment at the councils is very difficult. This is because most of the local authorities are being led by opposition councillors hence the government is setting them up for failure. The Urban Councils Act in its present state is giving too much power to the Local Government minister hence making it difficult for opposition-led councils to effectively deliver,” she said.
Among the key issues Kasipo highlighted as signifying tge excessive powers of the Local Government minister is the issue of recruitment.
“On recruitment, we only recommend the names of the three prospective candidates to the Local Government Board. We don’t employ, then it’s up to the Local Government board to continue with our recommendations or disregard them. Mind you, the Local Government Board is constituted by the Local Government minister. Therefore, the choice of someone to be the councils CEO is mainly partisan. These individuals will not be serving on behalf of residents but at the pleasure of the minister,” she said.
Kasipo said councillors do not have any power in recruiting council staff or even effecting a people-centred budget.
In addition, Kasipo explained that councillors have no powers to set an agenda in their respective council committee meetings, but instead this is done by respective heads of department. It renders futile any effort to consult residents or other fellow councillors on important issues affecting local communities.
However, Kasipo, who was Kwekwe’s first female mayor, said despite these challenges councillors still have a role to play.
“For the councillors to effectively deliver on their mandate we have to equip them at party level and at council level. In most instances, councillors are getting in councils without knowing what they are exactly supposed to be doing. This, therefore, compromises on service delivery. Councillors themselves must also further upgrade themselves so that they will be able to hold those in power to account,” she said.
Kasipo further said the country’s underperforming economy is also making service delivery very difficult.
“We cannot expect local authorities to perform miracles when the country’s economy is not performing. The country’s underperforming economy is also reflected at local government level. Residents are failing to pay rates, which has led to most local authorities failing to collect revenue which is way less than the projected figures. This, therefore, makes service delivery to suffer,” she said.
She added that by taking over the administration of road authorities in towns and cities, central government is now presiding over a poor road infrastructure as the authorities are not disbursing Zimbabwe National Roads Administration funds on time.
At the same time, aged infrastructure, much of it constructed during the colonial era, and a population bulge in urban areas, have not helped matters.
“We need a complete overhaul of our aged infrastructure as most of the infrastructure was constructed during the colonial period and has outlived its usefulness. In addition, growing population in the Urban areas is further putting pressure on the infrastructure.
“Further, the policies which are currently being used in most local authorities are not in sync with modern demands for urban areas. Most of these policies date back to the 1950s and that must change,” she said.
Kasipo, who is eyeing a council return, said lack of resources from central government has made it very difficult for local authorities to fully function.
“There are no resources and this makes service delivery suffer,” she said.–Staff Writer.