The road ahead for the new mayor
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