By Nokuthaba Nkomo
Chitungwiza residents have bemoaned decisions made by their local authority to exclude them in the budget consultation processes saying it was a deliberate effort to disenfranchise them from participating in local governance issues.
This came out during a local governance stakeholders Indaba in which Chitungwiza municipality and its residents were having discussions on how to improve citizen participation and service delivery.
Resident associations complained that Chitungwiza council was not giving them an opportunity to fully participate in community initiatives that would help the urban centre move forward.
Chitungwiza and Manyame Rural Residents Association (Camera) director Marvellous Khumalo said Zimbabwe has no proper citizen participation platform.
“Informing people about budget consultation meetings a day before they occur is a way of disempowering citizen involvement and influencing public policy. It’s deliberate.
“Accessing the budget draft costs $50 in Chitungwiza yet in our sister municipality in Harare it only costs $10. It is way too expensive and most people may not be able to access it in this harsh economy as it is expensive,” he said.
Khumalo urged the council to prioritise citizen engagement as this improves and enhances a sense of ownership in strategic plans and annual budgets.
Khumalo said he hopes that after the devolution of power is passed Chitungwiza council will be able to include citizens in major decisions.
“As the devolution bill is going to be implemented, we hope the issue of community engagement will be addressed, this bill will decentralise power from central government and allow local government to stand on its own.
However, Chitungwiza municipality finance director Evangelista Machona said the council tries by all means to engage its residents through councillors’ committees.
She noted that the budget consultation meetings were not effectively done this time around due to the cholera outbreak.
“As council management we have a mechanism of disseminating information to our residents to keep them up to date with what is happening. Information is communicated through councillors who hold ward meetings to update residents on what is happening.
“We could not effectively conduct budget meetings because we were trying to adhere to the ban on public gathering which was implemented to curb the spread of cholera.
“As you may have noticed there was not even a single cholera death in Chitungwiza as we avoided gatherings that would compromise residents’ lives,” Machona said.
Chitungwiza municipality has recently been caught up in corruption scandals which led to the suspension of some council officials. DailyNews