By Fortunate Muzarabani
RESIDENTS’ associations should not be swayed by cheap politics but continue to fight for their communities’ rights to access quality public services.
This was said during a regional summit for residents associations late last year in Bulawayo.
Addressing delegates at the summit, a governance consultant, Zibusiso Masiye, called on residents to find each other despite political differences.
He further urged them to be active agents and protect the interests of their cities while fighting for competent service delivery.
“Sometimes residents suffer because they do not dare to speak out. Service delivery is sometimes politicised, and residents say and do nothing as their rights are infringed upon,” he said.
“However it is important to note that before residents belong to any political party or grouping, they are primary residents, who all get affected alike by the absence of adequate service delivery.”
Roderick Fayayo, another governance expert told the delegates that leaders of residents associations carried a strong mandate of holding local authorities accountable and protecting the rights of communities.
He said service delivery challenges were a national phenomenon as they cut across the country from urban to rural district councils.
Fayayo also said service delivery challenges affected communities in varying degrees depending on their location.
The governance expert also highlighted that COVID-19-related challenges in the country had almost brought to a grinding halt many economic sectors, which further worsened the state of service delivery to ratepayers, who are already being short-changed by local authorities.
“There is a culture of fear in our communities and this needs to be dealt with. Often, residents feel intimidated to speak out on corruption, fearing the possible consequences of them pointing out such.
“This is where we must step in as residents’ association, to play our watchdog role on behalf of our wards, to monitor and ensure that both the local authorities as well as the central government do not connive to engage in corruption while short-changing the people on the quality services they deserve,” he said.
Fayayo pointed out that Bulawayo residents’ association leaders should be more active now, as the city is facing a crippling water crisis, which has seen residents going without water yet the official water-shedding programme states 144 hours a week.
“Service delivery issues are not peculiar to Bulawayo but are universal countrywide. They only manifest themselves according to peculiar issues in specific areas.
“As we speak, water shortages affect residents all over the country albeit in different magnitudes,” he said.
“Some people do not have water totally, while some only have dirty water. Some have water in abundance, however, there are no means of drawing the precious liquid to the people.
“It, therefore, becomes important to come together and find solutions to problems that are facing residents. We should be the united force that demands quality service for residents.”
He said those in power must be faithful stewards who periodically give full reports of what is going on, and must keep public accounts open.
Fayayo said residents were the most important stakeholders in cities as they were the ones who bore the brunt of poor service delivery on a day-to-day basis.
He added that residents had the power to demand the removal from office leaders who were no longer serving their interests.
Fayayo said residents should push for leaders that put their communities first.
He advised residents’ association leaders not to be caught up in politics at the expense of fighting for service delivery.