The Sunday Mail
Prince Maposa and Priscilla Kamurira
As Government doggedly tries to inculcate the litter-free habit of cleaning the environment, most residential areas, particularly in and around the capital city, Harare, continue to choke in mounds of uncollected rubbish and illegal dump sites, as Harare City Council (HCC) management continues to dither.
Although the highest office in the land issued a Presidential proclamation in December last year, which declared the first Friday of each calendar month as the National Environment Cleaning Day, City of Harare’s failure to ably complement the ongoing efforts have been quite apparent. The city currently has 24 refuse collection trucks that are struggling to service more than 36 suburbs. It is, therefore, unsurprising that is has been failing to abide by its own refuse collection schedule.
And ratepayers are naturally displeased.
Harare Residents’ Trust (HRT) director Mr Precious Shumba recently called out the city fathers for their empty promises.
“The Harare City Council has been saying one truck per ward for 15 years now. Talk is cheap. Why did we purchase such poor trucks? Why are there no spares in stock?” said Mr Shumba. Council workers and citizens are playing their role in placing the dirt in designated places, but when it comes to refuse collection, the council is not playing its part.
“The workers work very hard, and we are proud to support them but it is the management which cannot manage. . .
“The Harare City Council management seem to be exceeding their budget as they are in the process of trying to employ more workers, and 1 850 workers were confirmed to have been recruited in their last wave of recruitment,” he said.
HRT is a local non-governmental organisation which lobbies on behalf of residents of the capital city.
While the Environment Management Authority (EMA) has often been blamed for sleeping on duty, it puts the blame squarely on the city’s doorstep.
“EMA cannot be seen implementing policy or removing garbage because the city belongs to the local authority, and in this case, it is the Harare City Council,” said Ms Amkela Sidange, the environment management body’s education and publicity manager.
But HCC says biting foreign currency shortages are gravely affecting the local authority’s ability to replenish its refuse collection fleet.
Spokesperson Mr Michael Chideme told The Sunday Mail some of the trucks that were purchased two years ago are yet to be delivered owing to the foreign currency crunch.
“The council is now using 24 refuse trucks to service 36 suburbs, but, normally, we need 62 trucks to operate at optimum level.”
Notably, of the 30 refuse trucks that were purchased from a South African firm, FAW, in September 2017, only 18 have been received so far and 12 remain outstanding.
About US$1,3 million is needed to secure the trucks. “We have no forex to bring the other trucks to Zimbabwe, the supplier needs payment and we need about US$1,3 million,” added Mr Chideme.
While the city continues to plead poverty for its failure to meet ratepayer’s expectations, recent recruitments, especially after the July 2018 elections, have increasingly come under the spotlight.
Curiously, HCC currently spends half of its monthly average revenues of $16 million — about $8 million — on salaries, which crowds out service delivery.
More than 741 municipal officers were recently recruited in a move that was largely viewed an effort by MDC-Alliance councillors who run the local authority to appease expectant supporters who elected them.
Harare Mayor Hebert Gomba, however, said council will try to boost its revenue collection in order to address its skewed wages-to-service delivery ratio.
“At this moment, our wages-to-service delivery ratio stands at 48 percent. The ideal will be 30 percent for salaries and 70 for service delivery, and for us to be able to attain that, we have to work on increasing revenue.
“This is why our strategies are different from the previous council. We are now working on making sure that every cent that belongs to council comes to council.
“You see that now we are working on making sure that we embrace the concept of bringing in more revenue through technology,” said Councillor Gomba.
He added: “We have around 9000 members of staff and what we are now doing is to look at them and have an analysis of the staff compliment in order to weed out ghost workers and ensure that those who are being paid are there and performing their duties.”
HCC believes that ideally it needs a 12 000-member workforce.