By Admire Mutize- Chitownews citizen reporter.
There was drama and laughter at a budget consultative meeting organized by the Chitungwiza Municipality (CM) on Tuesday morning when a senior official was caught ‘offside’ when he lied that The Municipality of Chitungwiza ‘bought’ a Fire Tender truck in October 2016 from United Kingdom when in actual fact the vehicle was donated by a UK based institution.
The embarrassed official was interjected and forced to retract his false statement amid laughter from participants and later claimed that the municipality paid for transportation and duty into the country.
The Chitungwiza Municipality held its third budget consultative meeting under a humble mango tree at Chitungwiza Council offices opposite Zengeza 2 Shopping centre. Like the first two, the third budget consultative meeting between residents and decision-makers at Chitungwiza Municipality was organized ‘nicodemously’ with council deliberately omitting to publicize the crucial indabas to the majority of the citizens.
Turnout was initially low with about thirty elderly residents gathering at the venue before the meeting kicked off but the numbers gradually increased to nearly one hundred (100) individuals as concerned community members and passer-by’s joined the meeting.
Unfortunately none of the three Commissioners appointed by Local government Minister Saviour Kasukuwere to replace the twenty-five councillors fired on allegations of corruption attended the meeting leaving the Chamber secretary, Finance Director and Public Relations Officer to respond to the hot questions from the charged residents.
The meeting commenced with apologies on behalf of the absent Commissioners which were given by the Public Relations Officer- Mr. Mhonyera- acting as the Master of Ceremonies. Next to present was the Finance department which went on to give a rundown of the draft budget categories without giving participants copies of draft.
This did not go down well with participants who requested copies of the draft and repeatedly interjected her when the officials failed to furnish them with copies of the draft.
“You are talking of millions here. How are we supposed to follow such complicated proceedings verbally without a paper to refer to?,” queried one exasperated resident.
The Master of Ceremony gave another apology on behalf of the local authority and promised to make more copies of the draft budget available to members of the public in the next consultative meeting.
Mr. Mutodza- a representative of small business owners in Chitungwiza lambasted Council for charging exorbitant operating fees to market stall owners operating at shopping centres which amounted to $45 without providing enabling infrastructure such as functional public toilets and access to clean water.
He also complained that vendors and flea market operators were paying a fixed skip bin refuse collection, water and sewage monthly charges of $8 at a time when council was failing to provide them with such basic services. He described the move as daylight robbery and proposed that council levy $0.50 a day to market stall/flea market owners in Chitungwiza which translated into $15 a month instead of the $30 fixed monthly charge outlined in the draft budget.
Residents complained on phenomenon of space barons in the informal economy, mostly flea market stalls whom the claimed were illegally benefiting form municipal resources at the expense of the Municipality.
The space barons claim ownership of open spaces near shopping centres on behalf of council and extort daily access fees from poor women and youths seeking an honest living through vending. They described such acts as satanic and called on council to intervene and stop the blatant exploitation of vulnerable members of the community.
Mai Rusero from Zengeza 5 extension narrated how illegal housing infill stands created by land barons have blocked the storm-water drainage system flooding her house every time it rained heavily. She lamented how she had reported her issue repeatedly to council officials but was send from pillar to post until now. Her issue remained unresolved and she now feared for her life and property as another rainy season loom.
A hullabaloo ensured as agitated residents clamoured for the presence of Madzudzo Pawadyira and his other two commissioners who were rumoured to be attending a workshop somewhere out of town.
Residents urged the municipal to actively engage and consult residents in decision-making since the residents elected representatives had been booted out by the local government minister.
They also called for the progressive realization of basic services in the town since residents have been paying for services they are not receiving. They cited the lack of Emergency Fire-fighting equipment in the town as properties are being razed down by fire whilst waiting for Harare fire brigade.