|Municipality seeks to rebuild tattered image|
|Sunday, 06 March 2011 22:12|
For too long, Chitungwiza Municipality has been associated with the full gamut of negatives characteristic of local authorities - corruption, skills flight, poor salaries, and delays in paying employees and the attendant labour unrest.
As a result, investors shunned the municipality, as did skilled manpower.
Property values were greatly affected as uncertainty ruled.
Now management, employees and councillors have set as their prime target the sprucing up of the tattered image and usher the local authority into a new era.
The question is - can the municipality achieve its stated target of evolving into more than just a dormitory town for Harare?
Chitungwiza management, employee representatives and councillors recently went on a retreat to Kariba to brainstorm and chart the way forward.
Town clerk Mr Godfrey Tanyanyiwa set the tone when he challenged participants to devise strategies to "correct past problems such as delays in paying employees".
That Chitungwiza accepts that it is largely to blame for its own poor image is a good start.
Mr Tanyanyiwa was upfront with the reason for engaging workers in plotting a course of action.
"We want improved relations between councillors, management and workers," he said.
Too often, the sour relations between the three parties have driven Chitungwiza down.
Mr Tanyanyiwa, on whose shoulders the demise or prosperity of Chitungwiza rests, appears eager to implement strategies that help Chitungwiza evolve into a city.
The strategies include the employment of a full-time urban planner.
Mr Conrad Muchesa a career civil servant has been given that task and he certainly has his work cut-out for him.
He will also drive the Nyatsime Housing Estate, which has been in limbo for several years despite stand owners paying council in full.
About 15 500 residential stands were sold in Nyatsime.
The cocktail of strategies include harnessing business expertise in the development of the municipality, ensuring that services commensurate with rates and other charges are delivered, creating a conducive investment climate and above all attracting and maintaining key employees such as engineers, doctors, nurses, accountants among others.
Regular meetings between management and employees could characterise the new Chitungwiza.
Councillors wants high performing employees to be rewarded with extra perks and for residents to be regularly appraised of developments.
To its advantage, Chitungwiza boasts a huge human resource pool and an equally big market for any investors.
The main problem has been that most investment benefits accrue to Harare because the majority of the working population is employed in the capital and naturally conduct their business there.
This is why Mr Tanyanyiwa says Chitungwiza is fighting hard to shrug off the title "Harare's dormitory town".
"If we were one day to stop all the traffic into Harare in the morning some companies and workplaces would be empty," he said.
Assistant finance director, Mr Ezekiel Chifamba, said this year a slight improvement in revenue collection was recorded.
Last year, the municipality managed to collect on average US$50 000 a day but now collects about US$70 000.
This has translated into improved service delivery such as scheduled door-to-door refuse collection and unblocking of sewers.
However challenges still abound.
The municipality owes US$3 million in unpaid statutory payments to NSSA and other institutions.
Councillors agreed that council should start benefiting from fines levied on illegal traders.
The money goes to central Government but the municipal police make the arrests and monitor traders.
Director of engineering services Eng Alfonce Tinofa said Chitungwiza was sourcing fire tenders through the Iranian Embassy in Harare.
The issue of street lighting has also contributed to Chitungwiza's bad image and it is often referred to as the "dark city".
Eng Tinofa said streetlights would be installed on major roads and the whole of Makoni Shopping Centre, which is currently the municipal CBD.
Deputy housing director Mr Takesure Muronzi revealed that a new cemetery was being established in Nyatsime because the one in Unit L was full.
He said municipal halls need to be renovated, along with Chibuku Stadium, which they want to match Zifa standards "to attract big teams".
He said boreholes would be sunk in the stadium to water the lawns.
Mayor Alderman Philimon Chipiyo prayed that the unity displayed during the strategic planning workshop would be "replayed" in daily council activities.
"Let us all move together," he said.
Chamber secretary Ms Omega Mugumbate added: "We want a public relations plan to improve our image. We should work to remove the negative perceptions. We need effective communication."
Time will tell if these commitments are not all talk.