Harare Mayor, Jacob Mafume has accused the central government of interfering with the affairs of the local government authority saying that has crippled the local authority’s capacity to improve infrastructure.
Mafume who is also a Councillor for the opposition Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) made the remarks after President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s call for local authorities to improve infrastructure development. Mnangagwa said at the official opening of Highlands Park last week:
I exhort the City of Harare to improve the infrastructure along development corridors, while at the same time enhancing access to water, refuse collection and upgrading the road network, among others.
Mafume, however, said local authorities were hamstrung by government interference. NewsDay cites him as saying:
We cannot improve in infrastructure development as Harare because they have taken all the revenue streams that belong to the City of Harare. Even on devolution funds, they gave ZWL$73 million out of the budget exceeding ZWL$2 billion.
The little money we have, they are allocating that money on buying expensive fire trucks and expensive contracts that will not help the City. Budget allocation should come to the City so that we prioritise infrastructure. We should have a situation where the City sets up the priorities.
The central government has often denied reports of interfering saying the Ministry of Local Government and Public Works just plays its oversight role on local government authorities.
Harare Residents Trust (HRT) director Precious Shumba said Mnangagwa’s call should come with adequate funding for local authorities.
The President’s call for the improvement of infrastructure is important. However, for this to happen, local authorities including the City of Harare should be allocated significant grants to undertake major infrastructural development projects.
For road projects, the City of Harare should be more transparent in the utilisation of City Parking revenues which should be used in upgrading road and parking infrastructure in the central business district.
Shumba said the Zimbabwe National Roads Administration (ZINARA) should develop a predictable system of funds’ disbursements to local authorities if the desired goal of ensuring service delivery is to be attained.
He added that on their part, local authority governments have not been transparent in the utilisation of other revenues they generate which is “always a major challenge in the implementation of infrastructure development projects.”
Combined Harare Residents Association programmes manager Reuben Akili said the City of Harare needs to improve infrastructure development and since these were huge capital projects, devolution funds should be used.
Akili also criticised the central government for setting priorities and dictating how these funds should be used to the extent of suggesting where to buy or purchase.