THE aim of the Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association (BPRA), an organisation based in Zimbabwe’s second-largest metropolitan, is to ensure that residents get the best in terms of social service delivery.
Nyaradzo Nyere (NN) spoke to Emmanuel Ndlovu (EN), the organisation’s coordinator on several issues including challenges affecting Bulawayo. Below are excerpts of the interview:
NN: What does your organisation aim to achieve?
EN: BPRA is a community-based and membership-driven organisation established in 2007 as a non-partisan platform to promote effective residents and stakeholder interaction and participation in local governance.
It envisions being a transformative, relevant, and accessible residents’ association to the inhabitants of Bulawayo and local government stakeholders.
BPRA also envisions contributing to the city of Bulawayo’s assent as a centre of local governance excellence, prime service delivery and the city of first choice in Zimbabwe.
NN: What are some of the local governance issues facing the city of Bulawayo?
EN: Bulawayo is faced with a historic water crisis, worse since 2007. The responsibility lies squarely on the doorsteps of Bulawayo City Council (BCC) and central government.
BCC is the tier of public authority closer to and best accessible to residents and residents first look to BCC for their immediate needs and BCC must provide explanations.
While we all agree that Bulawayo is located in a semi-arid region with minimal rainfall, by now at least we should have been somewhere towards a solution.
While the central government has channelled some funding towards water in Bulawayo, the resources are a far cry. Added to that, the issue of Nyamayendlovu aquifer cannot be touted as a solution to the Bulawayo water crisis.
We need interventions with long term planning. Added to this is the issue of corruption, which has become a byword for local authorities in Bulawayo. Cases of land hoarding and corrupt allocation of stands is an issue that must be urgently addressed in order to restore public confidence.
NN: What are the successes you have recorded as an organisation in tackling these challenges?
EN: Over the last ten years BPRA has been carrying out a number of local and national initiatives as part of a balanced programming matrix that accepts that some issues require local solutions, while others demand national action.
This mix has also been informed by a realisation that BPRA’s strength and influence is better and increased when other residents’ associations are present and developed enough to act, as a way of reducing variation in service delivery outcomes in different cities. These approaches have been pursued through the following five principle areas of work:
- Local and national advocacy on key local government issues: This has included policy advocacy on service delivery with local authority officials (mayors, counsellors and senior bureaucrats) as well as central government officials from the Ministry of Local Government. BPRA has also conducted public advocacy on corruption, service delivery and other local government issues, incorporating public awareness-raising campaigns, petitioning, marches, pickets, and demonstrations
- Residents and residents’ associations’ leaders capacity-building efforts. BPRA has conducted capacity building initiatives including training, coaching, and other capacity enhancing processes with its members, leaders, and other local government stakeholders. These efforts have translated into a critical mass with the ability to influence local and national policies.
- Incubating upcoming or new residents’ associations: BPRA has incubated and assisted in the development of other residents associations in various parts of the country, including Gweru, Plumtree and Hwange. This has led to growth in the residents’ movement in the country, assisting in strengthening BPRA’s advocacy hand, especially on local government issues that require national attention and action, like devolution, the introduction of pre-paid water meters, and the constitutionalisation of local governance.
- Social Accountability: This strand of work has been one of BPRA’s key work pillars, and has seen BPRA conduct various activities in the local government public expenditure management cycle. These include residents-local authority engagement meetings, local authority and national budget tracking and analysis, residents and public officials training workshops on various elements of social accountability.
- Research and Policy Analysis: This workstream has been employed by BPRA to support the other workstream, ensuring that advocacy is evidence-based, capacity building informed by needs assessments, while incubation is informed by both best practice and BPRA’s experience, and that social accountability is informed by credible information bases. Research is usually on the main issues afflicting, inhibiting or enabling sound local government, including grounded policy analysis of key policy instruments in the local governance and service delivery spheres.
NN: Do you have anything else to add?
EN: Local authorities should be more engaging and should accord residents a permanent space in the bargaining table. As residents, we are equal partners in the service delivery equation and should not be engaged only when it’s beneficiary for councils to do so.