The road ahead for the new mayor

Sunday News (Zimbabwe) - - Front Page -

FRI­DAY 7 Septem­ber saw Bu­l­awayo fi­nally get to know who will be at the helm of the lo­cal au­thor­ity for the next five years. This was af­ter coun­cil­lors voted for Ward 23 coun­cil­lor Solomon Mguni as the new mayor, deputised by Ward Three coun­cil­lor Ti­nashe Kam­barami.

The elec­tion of the two brought to a halt weeks of spec­u­la­tion within the city on who will be voted to the two top­most po­si­tions in the city. Ques­tions have been asked whether the two and the crew they will be lead­ing are aware that the road ahead is fraught with ob­sta­cles, ex­pec­ta­tions and po­lit­i­cal chi­canery and if they will be equal to the task amid the con­tro­versy lead­ing to their elec­tion.

Ac­cu­sa­tions of im­po­si­tions by the MDC Al­liance leader Ad­vo­cate Nel­son Chamisa were be­ing ped­dled around with re­ports that he had or­dered coun­cil­lors to vote for Clr Mguni and Ward One coun­cil­lor, Mlandu Ncube.

As if this was not enough the name of Clr Nor­man Hla­bani (Ward 26) also emerged as he set to pull a shocker against Clr Mguni.

At the end of the day, how­ever, it was Clr Mguni and Clr Kam­barami who came out vic­to­ri­ous. Clr Mguni got 17 votes with Clr Hla­bani get­ting 12 votes. For the deputy mayor po­si­tion, Clr Kam­barami got 16 votes while Clr Ncube got 13 votes.

Now that the may­oral elec­tions are be­hind us fo­cus now shifts to the next five years; what do res­i­dents and other key stake­hold­ers ex­pect from the new mayor and deputy mayor, what are the two’s im­me­di­ate pri­or­i­ties and long term plans for the city and what will the two do to unite coun­cil­lors who showed signs of cracks among them­selves dur­ing the may­oral poll?

In his in­au­gu­ral speech af­ter be­ing elected as mayor, Clr Mguni re­vealed that his long term goal was to turn Bu­l­awayo into a smart city. He em­pha­sised the need for cit­i­zen en­gage­ment that will see res­i­dents be­ing able to have a say on how their fi­nances are spent by the lo­cal au­thor­ity.

“The work ahead given the dire eco­nomic sit­u­a­tion we have in our coun­try will not be easy, how­ever, as the mayor I promise that I will make the City of Bu­l­awayo an es­sen­tial com­po­nent of a func­tional state. The coun­cil that I lead will col­lec­tively work to de­liver a fair, eq­ui­table, qual­ity and ef­fi­cient ser­vice to the res­i­dents of Bu­l­awayo.

“So­cial ameni­ties in par­tic­u­lar, water sani­ti­sa­tion, refuse col­lec­tion, func­tional clin­ics, street light­ing and pot­hole free roads will be at the cen­tre of my ad­min­is­tra­tion. Cit­i­zen en­gage­ment through reg­u­lar feed­back and meet­ings and live stream­ing par­tic­i­pa­tion fo­rums will head­line my ap­proach. These will not be a to­ken ap­proach but will en­sure that res­i­dents de­cide how their fi­nances are spent, that is, ward re­ten­tion and bud­getary al­lo­ca­tions will be de­cided by them,” said Clr Mguni.

He as­sured res­i­dents that over the next five years the city will be re­gen­er­ated, re­paired, re­fur­bished and re­mod­elled to be­come a smart city, not­ing that one key strat­egy was com­ing up with a multi-stake­holder par­tic­i­pa­tion ap­proach.

“We shall pro­mote hous­ing through ef­fec­tive multi-stake­holder par­tic­i­pa­tion in hous­ing de­liv­ery to cut back on huge wait­ing lists that are cur­rently in the sys­tem and en­sure pro­vi­sion of cost ef­fec­tive so­lu­tions to re­alise the ur­ban div­i­dend.

“We shall be invit­ing build­ing so­ci­eties and pri­vate de­vel­op­ers to part­ner with the city of Bu­l­awayo to help ease the hous­ing back­log. We will how­ever, not tol­er­ate land barons. The is­sue of city park­ing will be vig­or­ously pur­sued, we need to de-con­gest the city through or­derly park­ing and rid the CBD of pi­rate taxis which have be­come a men­ace in our pub­lic trans­porta­tion sys­tem,” said the mayor.

Po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst, Mr Michael Mh­langa said while there were a num­ber of chal­lenges which Clr Mguni was faced with there were some pri­or­ity ar­eas that had to be ad­dressed as a mat­ter of ur­gency this in­clu­sive of water man­age­ment.

“What im­me­di­ately comes to mind is the is­sue of water man­age­ment; he needs to deal with the water man­age­ment and op­er­a­tions as a mat­ter of ur­gency. He has to come up with long term strate­gies of en­sur­ing water man­age­ment which seem­ingly has never been ad­e­quately dealt with by past may­ors.

“Fur­ther, Clr Mguni needs to call for an au­dit of all coun­cil-owned busi­nesses and prop­er­ties. All coun­cil beer halls not in use must be pri­va­tised and con­verted into some­thing use­ful. Per­haps coun­cil must have a busi­ness ind­aba to ex­plore where they must in­vest. At this point to make a mark, he should spear­head in­come gen­er­at­ing strate­gies for the city to en­sure self suf­fi­ciency,” said Mr Mh­langa.

The po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst said there was need for the new mayor to look into key coun­cil projects in­clu­sive of hous­ing, that have been de­layed for one rea­son or an­other fo­cus­ing on the rea­sons for such de­lays and fur­ther push de­vel­op­ment in the city.

“Clr Mguni also has to clean the Cen­tral Busi­ness District by mov­ing il­le­gal ven­dors and trans­port op­er­a­tors to des­ig­nated sites. Bu­l­awayo is fast get­ting con­gested and he has to avert that. In ar­eas such as 6th Av­enue and Kal­bro where they re­lo­cated kom­bis, there are no pub­lic toi­lets and it’s an im­me­di­ate health hazard that he should act on. Should he not, he runs the risk of be­ing judged on it as a fail­ure. The big­gest chal­lenge he has with this is how his re­sponse is on po­lit­i­cal check. These are the peo­ple who voted for MDC Al­liance and he would not want to be seen as an ad­ver­sary to the masses he promised to pro­tect in that il­le­gal­ity.

“Most im­por­tantly he has to bring clar­ity on the Ego­dini con­struc­tion. His po­si­tion on the progress is awaited by the res­i­dents and he has to be clear on it and be seen act­ing on it as well. Trans­parency is very much needed on this is­sue, es­pe­cially on ten­der­ing and hir­ing. He is ex­pected to be pro-Mata­bele as he was cel­e­brated,” said Mr Mh­langa.

Con­tacted for com­ment­ing Bu­l­awayo Pro­gres­sive Res­i­dents As­so­ci­a­tion act­ing co-or­di­na­tor, Mr Em­manuel Ndlovu said as res­i­dents they now ex­pected the new city lead­er­ship to walk the talk and en­sure that they lead the city with high lev­els of pro­fes­sion­al­ism.

“In or­der for the Mayor Solomon Mguni not to be haunted by prob­lems of pub­lic con­tempt, or even worse ‘dis­en­gage­ment’ he must strive to en­sure that there is a cre­ation of a cul­ture of high pro­file ac­count­abil­ity in Bu­l­awayo.

“While a lot of prob­lems that we face to­day as a city are largely due to failed struc­tures and sys­tems, a great amount of them are to do with the be­hav­iour and at­ti­tudes of elected of­fi­cials, most of whom no longer re­flect in their values, the think­ing of the or­di­nary masses whom they claim to rep­re­sent. He should there­fore lead by ex­am­ple and im­prove links be­tween BCC and res­i­dents,” said Mr Ndlovu.

He said one of the main tasks faced by Clr Mguni was that of im­prov­ing pub­lic con­fi­dence in the lo­cal au­thor­ity and guard against lead­ing coun­cil­lors who wanted to fo­cus on en­rich­ment.

“To­day a lot of lo­cal au­thor­i­ties have de­gen­er­ated into elite-based self-serv­ing in­sti­tu­tions, serv­ing the in­ter­ests of the elite and those of res­i­dents later. We want or­di­nary res­i­dents who in­habit far from the cen­tres of power to feel that they are part of the gov­ern­ing process, rather than mere vic­tims of cen­tralised think­ing.

“How must he do this, we may ask? He has to en­sure that there is an es­tab­lish­ment of manda­tory struc­tures for res­i­dents par­tic­i­pa­tion in de­ci­sion mak­ing pro­cesses of a pub­lic na­ture that are res­i­dents’ driven. We don’t want a sce­nario where coun­cil­lors make poli­cies and then im­ple­ment those poli­cies again,” he said.

Mr Ndlovu em­pha­sised the need to come up with pro-poor poli­cies and not use his of­fice to amass wealth.

“We warn him against the dan­gers and trap­pings of power and priv­i­lege,” said the BPRA act­ing co-or­di­na­tor.

Bu­l­awayo United Res­i­dents As­so­ci­a­tion chair­man, Mr Wi­nos Dube said the next five years were crit­i­cal in terms of push­ing the city back to its for­mer self, push­ing it back to be­come one of the in­dus­tri­alised cities in the coun­try hence the city’s lead­ers should work to­gether to­wards ful­fill­ing this man­date.

He said this was not the time for the mayor and his coun­cil­lors to fo­cus on self en­rich­ment in­stead their fo­cus should be more on de­vel­op­ment.

“Af­ter choos­ing lead­ers we ex­pect them to be hard work­ing, high per­form­ers, down to earth and pre­pared to lis­ten to the res­i­dents. They should take se­ri­ously the res­i­dents’ plight. We are look­ing for­ward to a sit­u­a­tion where these lead­ers are not kings but ser­vants of the res­i­dents.

“As res­i­dents of Bu­l­awayo we ex­pect lead­ers who will avoid at all costs cor­rupt ten­den­cies, avoid sit­u­a­tions and sys­tems of want­ing to en­rich one­self just be­cause they have been put into a po­si­tion to lead. In the past we have seen coun­cil­lors want­ing to en­rich them­selves, grab­bing land and busi­ness op­por­tu­ni­ties and we are say­ing no to that,” said Mr Dube.

There­fore as Clr Mguni and his team be­gin their five-year long jour­ney one hopes they will learn from the past mis­takes of the lo­cal au­thor­ity and push the city to de­vel­op­ment.

One is­sue em­pha­sised by res­i­dents is for Clr Mguni to main­tain an open door pol­icy, in the words of John Maxwell, “the day your fol­low­ers stop bring­ing their prob­lems to you is the day you stop lead­ing them. Its ei­ther they would have con­cluded that you don’t care about their needs or that you are in­ca­pable of solv­ing them. Ei­ther way it’s a fail­ure of lead­er­ship”.


Coun­cil­lor Solomon Mguni

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