Residents’ association say the ban on physical gatherings during the Covid-19 national lockdown has affected their ability to lobby for quality service delivery in most urban centres.
This came out of a training workshop for residents’ associations from Matabeleland on citizen participation and local governance in Bulawayo recently.
The training was organised by the Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association (BPRA).
The workshop focused on Zimbabwe’s local governance system and processes, local governance actors, issues around accountability, citizen access to information about local authorities, and the use of new media in citizen engagement.
Speaking on the sidelines of the training, Victoria Falls Combined Resident Association (VIFACORA) official Royal Ndlovu said Covid -9 regulations have affected them as they are not able to engage residents through physical meetings.
“Residents call us to engage the local authority but now it is difficult to have these meetings with Council, even if we meet them, it is difficult to then have a meeting with residents, so we are appealing to Government to allow us as Residents associations to have meetings with residents on issues of service delivery.”
Meanwhile, Emanuel Takutaku the Chairperson of Beitbridge Progressive Residents and Ratepayers Development Trust (BPRRADT) said Covid-19 regulations on holding public meetings are affecting a lot of activities that might change the face of local authorities.
“There are a lot of challenges that we are facing during this period of Covid-19, first of all, we are not allowed to gather residents for advocacy and a lot of activities that might change the face of our local authorities,” he said.
”In Beitbridge, there are a lot of challenges that we are facing, for example, Beitbridge is a border town and for that matter, it has to be the face of the nation but if you look at it, the roads are poor. Everything is dilapidated but a lot of money is generated and we don’t know how that money is used to improve Beitbridge.”
Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association (BPRA) Communications Officer, Kelebone Khabo said the physical ward meetings used to keep those elected in the office in check.
“First and foremost, we have to mention the inability to host physical meetings in our communities because we used to have ward meetings that were ward-based so people used to gather in numbers and meet with their elected officials and also different service providers so it was easy in terms of communicating with them to act upon certain things that we wanted them to act on,” said Khabo.
He also noted that different local authorities are now using Covid-19 as a weapon against action.
“Covid-19 became an excuse for local authorities to not respond or do their work because now they are mentioning that their offices are closed or they can’t be moving around, so it can be used as a weapon against action,” said Khabo.