Wanted: A new breed of councillors

Former mayors of the City of Harare believe there is need for a new model that ensures only competent councillors are elected.

Voters will elect councillors for a five-year term in harmonised elections tomorrow.

The capital city, Harare, has over 350 candidates vying for the city’s 46 wards.

Mr Muchadeyi Masunda, who was Harare mayor for the five-year period through to 2013, told The Sunday Mail recently that there was need for Government to use various professional institutions and companies to encourage participation of professionals in council affairs.

Government, he added, could reintroduce special interest councillors with technical skills to steer the agenda of local authorities and improve service delivery.

“We need to have councillors who can make contributions based on their own individual track records,” said Mr Masunda.

“For example, we have committees such as environmental management committees, where the director of water, director of waste management and director of works report to that committee.

“Now, how can engineers feed into those committees that are manned by councillors who have no clue about what is happening in council? This is an issue that needs to be addressed.

“Some of the people employed by the council have no business being there. This is where we need to find another model because democracy throws up all sorts of intended and unintended consequences; and quite frankly, in my view, nobody who is not a ratepayer should have any business becoming a councillor. (At one point, Bulawayo councillors owed the local authority more than $500 000 in rate arrears.),” he said.

The practice of electing activists into councils, he added, often bred people who are ill-suited to run local authorities.

“In the past, we used to have councillors drawn from community leaders as opposed to activists from political parties.

“Those activists are chosen for a number of reasons and at times those reasons are not remotely connected with the wellbeing of the community they purport to represent.

“There is also need to make use of professionals from institutions such as Zimbabwe Institute of Engineers, Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce, Law Society of Zimbabwe, and have them as some of the councillors at the Town House.

Outgoing Harare mayor Clr Bernard Manyenyeni added there was need for evaluation of both incoming and outgoing councillors shortly after the July 30 elections.

“Democracy alone will not deliver the capacity needed, especially for city turnaround and recovery,” he said.  A new model must blend democratic outcomes with specialist support structures. A capacity evaluation exercise must be done straight after elections.

“Being a councillor is now the biggest job with the lowest qualifications. It should be backed by background, education, training, experience and exposure.

“The high number of people with nothing to do before, during or after being councillors across political parties should worry us collectively in terms of motive and capacity.”

In April, Clr Manyenyeni challenged residents to use the 2018 elections to vote for educated councillors with capacity to comprehend issues affecting local authorities.

Clr Manyenyeni has on numerous occasions clashed with councillors, and the latter have reacted by trying to sack him after he pointed out that they lacked capacity to run a city.

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