Bulawayo residents in wards where councillors were recalled say they are are struggling to access critical services due to lack of representation.
The wards fell vacant after MDC-T interim leader, Thokozani Khupe, fired eight Bulawayo councillors in September claiming they no longer represented party interests.
The fired councillors were Donald Mabuto (Ward 9), Lilian Mlilo (Ward 12), Concilia Mlalazi (Ward 18), Clayton Zana (Ward 19), Ernest Rafamoyo (Ward 20), Tinevimbo Maposa (Ward 21), Norman Hlabano (Ward 26) and Tinashe Kambarami (Ward 3), whose case is still before the courts.
Ward 8 fell vacant following the death of incumbent councillor, Ronia Mudara in July this year.
Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association (BPRA) coordinator Emmanuel Ndlovu, confirmed to CITE in an interview that residents were now stranded.
“In Ward 8, residents are struggling to make payment plans with the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA), as the company refused to entertain them if they don’t have letters from the councillor. They need these payment plans to avoid power cuts.” he alleged.
“Residents have therefore been left stranded as ZESA refused to work with the resident association leaders citing they need the councillor’s referral.”
Ward 8 also experienced a diarrhoea outbreak and without a councillor, residents faced difficulties communicating with relevant authorities for assistance, Ndlovu noted.
In Ward 9, residents complained that they were not getting any positive response from the local authority.
“Residents felt if they had a councillor, the council would have responded timely and positively. In Ward 12, there is lack of information dissemination, especially concerning the water crisis. Residents believe the situation is growing worse but they have no means of knowing what is happening without a councillor’s feedback,” Ndlovu said.
Residents from Ward 14 also highlighted they need a councillor’s referral to access certain services.
“Another concern is the rates increase but there’s no councillor to communicate these concerns to BCC. The number of organisations coming in with different programmes in the ward also decreased as there’s no councillor to facilitate the processes,” Ndlovu claimed.
He added the same situation was taking place in Ward 18, as residents faced challenges in certifying documents, a role previously done by the councillor.
“The alternative, which is the police is inconvenient as certification is only done on one specific day in a week, so when there’s an emergency, such as funerals residents are stranded. Residents also feel their consultative meetings are now futile as no councillor is present to represent their issues.”
In Ward 19, some residents were hospitalised for over three weeks due to a diarrhoea outbreak, allegedly caused by the poor quality of tap water and Ndlovu said it was difficult for people to communicate with relevant authorities in the absence of a councillor.
“Residents also face transport challenges which were usually solved by the councillor, the current caretaker councillor has not been effective in response due to having his own ward to look after,” he added.
In Ward 20, residents are failing to access water bowsers since the councillor was one responsible for organising its delivery.
“In Ward 21, residents received huge water bills despite spending up to five months without water, efforts to engage BCC on the issue have been difficult without the ward councillor. It has also been difficult to communicate with the city council to request water bowsers for funerals, which was much easier when the ward had a councillor,” said the BPRA coordinator.
“Tshabalala Clinic has also not had water for a while and efforts for assistance from BCC have been a challenge. The clinic is now a threat for disease outbreak.”
Ward 26 has broken down boreholes and fixing of those boreholes have stalled since the councillor was recalled.
“It has been difficult to request for water bowsers from BCC when there are funerals and residents have tried communicating this with their caretaker councillor but he also his ward to look after, leading to delayed response in cases of urgent issues,” Ndlovu said.
Contacted for comment, Bulawayo Mayor, Solomon Mguni, said the council understood the challenges faced by the residents but it could only assign caretaker councillors, as it was Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC)’s mandate to hold by-elections.
“The caretaker councillors now have extra load and this is what happens when there are vacancies. The challenge can be solved through electoral processes, which we are awaiting for as that is beyond our control,” he said.
“We can only assign caretaker councillors who are near the affected wards until such a time people vote for replacements. So before the elections are done, people would continue to act,” he said.