Consult residents first,  President tells councils President Mnangagwa unveils a remembrance plaque along Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa Street, formerly known as Main Street, in the Gweru Central Business District yesterday while the city’s mayor Councillor Hamutendi Kombayi (left) follows proceedings. — Picture: Believe Nyakudjara.

Zvamaida Murwira in GWERU

LOCAL authorities should continuously consult residents on issues that affect them as opposed to only engaging them during budget formulation when they need money, President Mnangagwa has said.

The local authorities, he said, must have clear development plans of enhancing service delivery and consider engaging tertiary institutions such as universities where they can leverage on the innovation hubs in their quest to address some of their challenges.

The Head of State and Government made the remarks in his acceptance speech after he was conferred with the Freedom of the City by Gweru City Council in honour of his vast and iconic contribution to the city, the Midlands Province and the nation at large. 

Freedom of the City is the highest civic honour council can bestow on a prominent person for meritorious service, either of a national or local character.

The President challenged local authorities to ride on the Government’s engagement and re-engagement policy to establish partnerships and twinning arrangements that will leapfrog governance systems and attract investment towards the growth of provincial Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

“Capital goes where it feels safe, hence I challenge you to improve your ease of doing business environment in line with the national barometer and global best practices.

“As you do so, always keep the residents continuously engaged and dialogue open, as opposed to restricting interactions with them during the budget formulation process. The GDP of your province must grow from one year to another. Residents must be consulted from January to December. As we entrench democracy, participatory governance and private sector led development in our country, our people’s voice must be heard, and their views taken on board.”

Government, said President Mnangagwa, has taken a deliberate policy to assist local authorities to address some of their challenges.

“In view of the evident shortcomings within local authorities to collect and prudently utilise resources of rate payers, my Government is in the process of availing financial resources for the improvement of water and sewer reticulation systems; rehabilitation and development of roads; ICTs; refuse removal and public lighting, among others. The welfare of the people of our great country remains paramount,” he said.

President Mnangagwa said it was encouraging that Devolution Funds availed under the Devolution and Decentralisation Programme had resulted in people centred projects. 

“Let us not tire and continue on this positive course so that all citizens across the country within both rural and urban local authorities, have access to reliable services. Going forward, I have tasked the Ministers responsible for Local Government; Finance; the Public Service Commission and representatives from my Office, to continuously review our Inter-Governmental Fiscal Transfer model. Notwithstanding this, local authorities must be proactive and scale up efforts to collect revenue and prioritise implementation of programmes and projects. The resident and rate payer of Gweru deserves better and should see value for the rates, fees and charges that they pay,” said President Mnangagwa. 

He implored local authorities to partner local universities and leverage on their capabilities for the good of residents.

“The City of Gweru is home to the Midlands State University, Mkoba Teacher’s College and Gweru Polytechnic College, among other strategic national institutions. I urge you to leverage on the capabilities and competencies of these organisations as you implement the Smart City Concept and modernise the City. 

“Information Communication Technologies and other contemporary strategies must be effectively deployed to accelerate the modernisation of the City. The talented young girls and boys at the innovation hubs and industrial parks should be tasked to come up with solutions which enhance service delivery,” said President Mnangagwa.

He said Gweru City Council, known as the City of Progress, should translate that mantra to reality through delivery of quality water and sewer reticulation infrastructure, roads, ICTs, waste management and refuse collection, public lighting as well as other critical services that ought to be scaled up.

“While I recognise the fact that not all challenges can be resolved in one day, all local authorities must, however, have clear development plans to enhance service delivery and foster incremental development. Sound corporate governance systems, integrity, honesty and orderliness are essential traits for those holding public office in our local authorities and indeed across the political spectrum,” said President Mnangagwa.

“Furthermore, planning regulations and by-laws should be transformative in line with the changing socio- economic trends and demographics. As our society and cities expand, develop and modernise, it is incumbent upon our local authorities to provide adequate designated industrial zones, factory shells, market areas and stalls for emerging businesses and residents. I also call upon the private sector to embark on various corporate social responsibility programmes for the benefit of their customers and the communities in which they operate in. The National Clean-up and Beautification Programmes should be taken seriously and see the ambience of Gweru improving.”

He said Gweru had historical importance as it was the city where liberation movement, Zanu, held its inaugural congress at Mtapa Hall in May 1964.

Gweru Mayor, Councillor Hamutendi Kombayi, led the process of conferment at a colourful ceremony held at Gweru Civic Centre.

President Mnangagwa commended Gweru city fathers for their political maturity and rising above partisan politics.

“Given that Gweru City Council is made up of councillors from different political parties, backgrounds and persuasions, this honour is apolitical. It is also a demonstration that our democracy is maturing and some political leaders across the political party divide are able to act objectively for the broader national good. This is what it should be. We are all Zimbabweans and this is our home. Congratulations Gweru through this act, you further attest to the fact that there is much more that unites us no matter our party preferences,” said President Mnangagwa.

“This is the spirit that should permeate throughout our country even as we gear up for the upcoming harmonised elections. Let us remain united, preaching peace, love and harmony among our people.”

The last conferment was in 1992 when the late founding President Cde Robert Mugabe was bestowed with the status by Gweru City Council.

Earlier on President Mnangagwa unveiled a remembrance plaque along ED Mnangagwa Street at the boogie clock.

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