‘Councillors must be educated’ Engineer Bernard Musarurwa

Blessings Chidakwa

Municipal Reporter

The selection of councillors based on qualifications was long overdue as most of the councillors were failing to appreciate their mandate and authority due to low literacy levels, residents have said.

Most councillors, particularly in urban areas run by the opposition, have mainly benefited from patronage and popularity, rather than by having something to offer.

On Tuesday, Cabinet approved a legal framework that will allow the Government to introduce minimum qualifications for councillors as the Second Republic moves to improve competence in service delivery.

A Ruwa resident, Ms Rumbidzai Mawonde, said demanding qualifications from council aspirants was a noble idea.

“Considering the deteriorating service delivery in most urban areas, this is good. Only activists are being voted into office on the basis of popularity but cannot contribute meaningfully in council,” she said.

Mr Kelvin Moyo of Kuwadzana said residents had put up with bad performers for a long time.

“It is a refreshing idea by Government, you cannot have people that just sloganeer and blame the Ministry of Local Government and Public Works for their failures.

“I was one of the people that were critical of the idea of just having anyone that can attack the Government in a slogan going to council to represent residents. I pray that by the time of the next harmonised election, the law would have been in place,” said Mr Moyo.

Harare Residents Trust director Mr Precious Shumba commended the Government for recognising the huge gap in the appreciation of the local government system by elected councillors. “Council business is mostly conducted through council committees and the full council. Technocrats in council management have a tradition of packaging and disseminating highly technical documents to councillors for committee and full council recommendations and resolutions.

“Deliberations become pointless among ignorant, inexperienced and highly partisan policymakers as they only focus on how they benefit from endorsing proposals tabled before them by technocrats.

“The result has been that councillors have made resolutions that largely reflect the thinking of technocrats and not necessarily people’s elected officials,” he said.

Mr Shumba said as an organisation, they believe in a minimum of Five Ordinary Levels passes and at least a certificate in some professional course.

“These academic and professional qualifications should be a minimum requirement in order to safeguard the institution of council from political opportunists who thrive on sloganeering and political activism rooted in being loyal to respective political party leadership.

“A significant number of current councillors would never be councillors except for their proximity to the powers that be in their respective political parties,” he said.

Mr Shumba recommended that the local government tier should attract the best minds in society since local authorities are closest to the citizens and determine how people live their lives more than the national Government.

“This means only serious and dedicated members of society should be given the opportunity to run our public affairs,” he said.

Combined Harare Residents Association programmes manager Mr Reuben Akili said the idea of having councillors who have basic educational qualifications was progressive.

“From a resident perspective, our expectation is that those who want to hold public office must have basic literacy in terms of writing and reading, and the ability to calculate figures, this must cut across all elected positions including provincial councils,” he said.

Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association secretary Mr Thembelani Dube also praised the move.

“We applaud the proposed suggestion that public representatives must have minimum qualifications. Policy making requires literate leaders who can formulate laws and interpret statutes,” he said.

United Mutare Residents and Ratepayers Trust deputy director Mr Edson Dube expressed mixed feelings over the development.

“Some feel it is elitist while others think it is a step in the right direction. A good councillor must possess a number of qualities in addition to the educational requirements.

“We should handle this matter carefully to strike a balance for all councillor requirements,” he said.

Engineer Bernard Musarurwa proposed that the minimum age for one to contest should be 25 years, in addition to minimum educational qualifications of two years’ tertiary at Certificate or Diploma or Higher National Diploma, coupled with a detailed curriculum vita.

He said the candidate must also reside and own or rent residential property in the constituency or ward they seek to contest.

“A system must be established for reporting back to the constituency through regularly-scheduled periodic public meetings, website and other ICT means,” he said.

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