17 February 2013

Zimbabwe: Knives Out for Masunda

KNIVES are out for Harare Mayor, Muchadeyi Masunda with residents saying his administration was the worst since the country's independence.

Masunda has in recent weeks been in the eye of a storm of bad publicity, as angry residents denounced the way his council was running the affairs of the city.

Noel Nyamanhindi, a Harare resident, said he was disgusted that the local authority had begun serving summons on residents yet it was failing to provide basic services.

"This council has started serving summons to people to pay arrears for non-existent services," he said. "Where I stay in Warren Park, they are demanding that we pay for water, yet we go for weeks without water."

Nyamanhindi said when the council did provide running water, it was usually dirty and unfit for drinking.

A shop assistant, Vast Bundo described the present council as a failure, saying they should not be given another chance.

"There is no water, roads are littered with potholes and there is no street lighting, they have failed and do not deserve another chance," she said.

Bundo said when Masunda took office, she hoped the situation would improve but things had gone from bad to worse.

"The council says we owe them rates, this is because at first we used to pay but we stopped when we realised that nothing was changing, so we started directing our monies to more pressing issues," she said.

Clement Musungo, a taxi driver was seething with anger.

He said the local authority was more interested in collecting rates than providing services.

He said a number of projects had stalled, like the construction of kombi ranks on the outskirts of the central business district, yet the City of Harare continued to collect rates.

"The roads are in a poor state, but instead of the council putting their energies there, they prefer to hire more people to clamp kombis and taxis," Musungo said.

Most people interviewed said the Elias Mudzuri administration had been better than the current one, which allowed potholes to flourish, and unmarked trenches, some as deep as graves, to remain in the middle of the roads.

"He [Masunda] should go, even the councillors must go, all of them must be fired," Shepherd Musokota said angrily. "Potholes are everywhere, garbage is uncollected and there are sewer bursts all over the place."

He said Masunda should not complain about unpaid rates, as these were often too high and out of the reach of most residents.

Fulton Doma, another resident concurred, saying Harare was increasingly being reduced to a rural village.

"I stay in Mbare and the situation there is terrible," he said. "The roads are impassable and that has damaged our cars. I cannot describe those as potholes, because some of them are as deep as graves and the councillors are not doing anything."

Last week The Standard revealed how some Mbare residents had resorted to relieving themselves in buckets, as they had gone for weeks without water, rendering their communal toilets unusable.

Precious Kadzaranyamba also said the mayor and his council should not be given another mandate after the elections.

"He must go," she said. "As it is, I can hardly drink tap water and they expect me to pay rates."

The common themes were that the council had failed in providing clean water, waste collection, repairing roads and providing street lighting.

The local authority, on its side, claims it is finding it difficult to carry out its mandate, as it is owed close to US$300 million by residents.

This then creates a vicious cycle, where residents say they will not pay rates, as they are not being provided a service. Yet the council says it cannot provide the service as it does not have the money as residents are not paying bills.

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