10 January 2019

Zimbabwe: Residents, Leadership Find Each Other in Wedza

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Savanna Trust and Wedza Residents Development Initiative Trust (WERDIT) are bringing residents from diverse backgrounds and persuasions together with council and the District Administrator's office to deliberate on issues to do with development in the district. Under this project, local community members in Wedza's 15 wards are being engaged to come up with a single priority project to be advocated for Wedza Rural District Council and other stakeholders' support, to include financially. Residents have generally expressed that the initiative which creates dialogue between their leadership is welcome since they have many unanswered questions regarding critical issues concerning service delivery and the development agenda in Wedza district as a whole.

Platforms for deliberating developmental issues such as Village Development Committees (VIDCOs), Ward Development Committees and Full Council sounded new to some residents whilst some wrongly perceived them as political party platforms, where those who have dissenting voices to the winning councillor do not want to be seen. As a result, there has been serious apathy in participation in developmental issues. Most residents therefore lack knowledge on local government and service delivery matters. A number of residents directed questions to do with the social welfare ministry to the council whilst some thought District Development Fund is a branch of council. The dialogue platforms are however dealing with some of these issues.

So far the meetings have been conducted in the following areas: Goneso, St Barnabas, Chamatendere, Musengezi and Zviyambe. More meetings are lined up to cover all wards, with a target of 150 residents per meeting.

Utilising their expertise in Theatre for Development Savanna Trust developed a play promoting meaningful citizen participation in service delivery and educating residents on the constitutional obligations of the duty bearers including council, DA's office and relevant ministries. The play additionally provokes residents to air their views on the discourse for local governance and service delivery in their localities to be tackled by the council and DA's office. The use of theatre is bringing a lot of impact since it washes away possible tension, as well as simplifying seemingly complicated issues. In the same vein, WERDIT is setting up structures as well as recruiting membership as a sustainability measure as the project progresses to the end.

The council through its Human Resource Officer, Chipo Abhasi, has taken the opportunity provided by these platforms to bring awareness to residents on the need to play an active role in council programs including budget consultative meetings, full council meetings and committee meetings among other council activities. She also shared the budget priorities as enshrined in the draft budget set to be approved soon by the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing. She also advised the residents on the 50% discount promotion on the payment of bills to the council and informed residents that the council belongs to them and vice-versa.

The Wedza Assistant District Administrator, Admire Dhliwayo informed the residents that payment of tax is compulsory and is paid per household. In return residents also have the right to make a follow up on how their funds are used by the district authorities. He also highlighted that a plough back fund from the tax paid by residents is used to develop and repair infrastructure in communities. These include boreholes, bridges, schools and public health facilities. The duty bearers jointly thanked Savanna and WERDIT for creating these platforms and vowed to continue on this path, even in the aftermath of the project.

Source: Wedza Residents Development Initiative Trust (WERDIT)

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