According to Section 149 of the Constitution, read together with Standing Order No. 191 and Appendix E, every citizen and permanent resident of Zimbabwe has a right to petition Parliament to consider any matter within its authority, including the enactment, amendment or repeal of legislation.
Parliament received five petitions from the Masvingo United Residents and Ratepayers Alliance, Headlands Residents Committee, Budiriro High Density Community Water Supply, Gweru Residents Forum and the Southlands Community. The petitioners beseeched Parliament to discharge its oversight function on issues pertaining to service delivery and participation of the citizens in the utilisation of devolution funds. The petitions were referred to the Portfolio Committee on Local Government, Public Works, National Housing and Social Amenities.
The Committee held oral evidence with Harare City Council on the petitions from the Budiriro High Density Community Water Supply. The Committee invited the Headlands Residents Committee to a meeting to get an in-depth understanding into the issues raised in their petition. Further the Committee conducted public hearings in Masvingo, Gweru, Headlands, Budiriro and Southlands in Harare on the petitions from 3 to 8 April 2022.
3.0 Committee’s Findings from the Petitions
The section details the Committee’s findings from the inquiries conducted on the petitions.
Petition from the Gweru Residents Forum
The Committee considered the petition from Gweru Residents Forum (GRF) and conducted public hearings in Gweru. The hearings were attended by the petitioners, residents of Gweru and Gweru City Council officials and Councillors. The Gweru Residents Forum was disturbed by the non-consultative process in the utilisation of devolution funds by Gweru City Council. Resultantly, the petitioners bemoaned the lack of participation by residents in the selection of devolution projects. Gweru City Council was accused of conducting its business without considering the views of the residents including the tendering process of City Parking, servicing of residential stands and construction of bus termini.
The petitioners beseeched Gweru City Council to implement standing orders that are in compliance with the Constitution of Zimbabwe and to revoke Section 26, 30, 49 which were said to be on pages 10 and 11 of Gweru City Council’s Standing Orders. The Standing Orders were excluding the participation of ordinary residents and members of press in Council meetings. The Acting Town Clerk responded by noting that while the Urban Councils Act provides for the participation of the public in the council meetings, the Act also placed limitations on the meetings that public could attend. These limitations were on meetings pertaining to the Human Resources and tender/contract deliberation meetings.
Pertaining to the utilisation of devolution funds, the public expressed concern on the failure by the Council to consult the residents. In most cases, Council would only come back with feedback pertaining to how the funds were utilised and sometimes the projects would not be of priority. It was also submitted that in Ward 5, the CBZ housing cooperative had last received water six months ago. They were relying on a borehole donated by a donor in Nehosho but that borehole had since been converted to a water kiosk by the Council, again without the consultation of the public.
The Acting Town Clerk, Mr. Chikwekwe in his response to the issues raised pointed out that the local authority was conducting consultations on the utilisation of devolution funds concurrently with budget consultations. The submissions from the public during that consultative process would then inform the selection of priority projects which include those earmarked for devolution funds. It was further pointed out that while there was no specific legislative framework on devolution, the local authority was conducting its operations guided by Circular No. 3 of 2019. However, it was observed that the Circular did not outline the implementation modalities and the role that the local authority has to play in enhancing citizen participation in the devolution process. It was opined that there was a need to expeditiously develop the devolution legislation which will explicitly define the implementation framework of devolution in Zimbabwe. The same sentiments were echoed in all the local authorities visited by the Committee in this and prior fact-finding missions.
Petition from Masvingo United Residents and Rate Payers Alliance
Masvingo Residents were disturbed by the manner in which Masvingo City Council was utilising devolution funds without consulting the residents. The residents were further concerned that several years ago, the Masvingo City Council received funds in the form of a loan from National Social Security Authority (NSSA) towards the completion of the Mucheke Main Trunk sewer project but the project has not yet been completed despite the project being included every year in the Council’s budget.
Additionally, the petitioners were concerned with perennial water shortages in all the ten wards in the City due to intermittent power supply and persistent pump breakdowns at the Bushmead Water Treatment Plant at Lake Mutirikwi. Areas such as Mucheke, Rhoden and Runyararo West had gone for three months without water. The petitioners were concerned that the protracted water shortages would result in the increased water-borne and enteric infections as well as the spread of COVID-19. The petitioners also observed that at Mucheke Hospital, patients were now asked to source their own water and theatre operations had been suspended due to the incessant water shortages.
In his response to issues raised in the petition, the Town Clerk, Mr. Mukaratirwa pointed out that, pertaining to the Mucheke Main Trunk Sewer project which started in 2013, Council indeed received US$2.1 million from NSSA. The project stalled in 2015 after the funds had been fully utilised. Government further gave permission to the Council to acquire a loan to complete the project and NSSA extended a US$900 000 loan which was not enough to finalise the project. The project stalled until 2019 when, through the devolution funds, Council moved to complete the project. The Council expected to complete the project by the end of 2022.
Regarding public consultations in the utilisation of devolution funds, the Town Clerk indicated that the local authority was carrying out the consultations simultaneously with the budget consultations. It was from these consultations that the local authority would prioritise projects that would be implemented using the devolution funds. He added that the selection of projects was informed by the Ministry of Local Government and Public Works which required them to constantly submit quick-win or 100-day cycle projects. In that regard, and in most cases, the local authority would implement projects that were reflective of the guidance from the Ministry.
Members of the public also submitted that Masvingo City Council was failing to provide adequate services to the communities settled in the Victoria Range area. They bemoaned poor service delivery in the area despite religiously paying rates and levies to the local authority. Some pointed out that some parts of the Victoria Range area were yet to be fully serviced and as a result, some of the people were living in degrading and inhuman conditions. The Town Clerk responded by acknowledging that the local authority was constrained in its capacity to service the area. He pointed out that the local authority was providing the services to the area as a way of assisting the citizens of Victoria Range as legally, the area was still under the jurisdiction of Masvingo Rural District Council and that local authority was facing challenges to provide services to the area. This situation however was not peculiar to Masvingo only but was also observed in other areas of Zimbabwe such as Bulawayo where the City Council was providing services to some parts of Umguza to prevent the spread of enteric infections to their area.
Committee’s Observations for Gweru and Masvingo Petitions
The Committee noted that there were problems on how Councils were utilising devolution funds, service delivery and lack of civic participation in Council business. Even Members of Parliament in their Constituencies confirmed that they were not being consulted on decisions concerning the use of devolution funds.
The Committee also noted the need for an engagement with the Ministry of Local Government and Local Authorities on issues of implementation of devolution and utilisation of the funds, lack of service delivery and civic participation in council business.
The Committee observed the urgent need for the formulation of the Devolution Bill which will outline the systems and processes necessary for the full and effective administration of devolution agenda.
The Committee noted with concern that Local Authorities only engage the residents during their budget consultations and as a result devolution funds were treated as one such revenue stream for the Councils yet the Constitution set parameters for devolution funds.
Committee’s Recommendations on Masvingo and Gweru Residents Petition
The Ministry of Local Government and Public Works should submit to Parliament the Devolution Bill that will guide Local Authorities on utilisation of devolution funds among other mechanisms by end of July 2022.
Local Authorities should conduct separate public consultations on the utilisation of devolution funds by 31 December every year.
ZACC should investigate tenders for the refurbishment of Gweru bus terminus and Gweru city parking by July 2022.
Petition from the Headlands Residents Committee
The Headlands Residence Committee was concerned about issues around sewer system, stands allocation, water provision, road infrastructure, rates and rentals. The petitioners were also concerned about lack of transparency, abuse and misappropriation of residents’ funds, corruption and poor service delivery to residents of Headlands by Makoni Rural District Council.
The petitioners explained that residents of Headlands were facing a number of challenges emanating from the administration of Headlands Growth Point. They outlined that on rates and rentals, Makoni RDC did not consult residents on increases but just went ahead and impose figures on residents. It was mentioned that the residents were not represented at the Council’s budget consultative meeting to afford them an opportunity air their views.
The petitioners also complained that they were houses which were bought in 1972 on a rent to buy basis but up until now Makoni RDC was still collecting rentals and rates. The petitioners said that the owners of those houses were expecting to get title deeds instead of continuing to pay rentals. Residents were wondering for how long they will keep paying for the houses and also the value of those houses. Council was accused of issuing summons and final demands for the lease rentals yet residents were expecting title deeds. The petitioners felt that there were some corrupt activities by Makoni RDC officials concerning the matter of home ownership.
Another challenge cited by the petitioners was that Makoni RDC sold stands in Sunview and Sunset as developed stands but these areas did not have roads, water and sewer reticulation system. The Council also charged residents for refuse collection and sewer charges when it was not providing such services. In Sunview, the petitioners informed the Committee that some stands that were sold are surrounded by huge rocks that make it impossible to build houses while some stands are occupied by graves. Residents who were allocated stands on graves were told to conduct exhumation and reburials on their own with the relatives of the deceased.
The petitioners were also concerned that revenue collected from plantations, Inyathi Mine was supposed to contribute towards development of Headlands. The petitioners alleged that Maungwe Investment (a timber plantation in the district) was owned by the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Makoni RDC. The petitioners alleged that the Maungwe Investment did not get the tender procedurally and that the company does not employ its labour from the local communities. Instead, it hired from outside the Headlands community thereby denying locals employment opportunities. The petitioners further alleged that Maungwe Investment was using Makoni RDC equipment such as tractors, trailers and management cars for its private activities.
The Headlands petitioners bemoaned the inconsistencies in the application of housing construction policies by Makoni RDC. They said that the local authority did not allow residents in Headlands to construct houses using farm bricks which were affordable and accessible yet in Nyazura and Chendambuya which are also under Makoni RDC they were allowed to use farm bricks.
The petitioners said that Headlands was managed by a Town Manager yet it had a rural setup which should be managed by a superintendent. They felt that Makoni RDC set up Headlands as a town settlement to justify hefty charges such as stage fees which were higher than fees for the rural setup. They also complained that in a rural setup graves were not sold but in Headlands the residents were charged $US50 per grave yet the grave site was not properly developed with no roads, water, toilets or refuse bins.
The petitioners also alleged that some house ownership in Headlands were being changed by the Town Manager without following proper procedures such as cessions. The Town Manager was accused of asking residents to come during weekends to be shown their stands.
In areas where there are sewer pipes, they were now too old and no longer able to cater for the growing population, thereby resulting in constant outbursts. The sewer ponds were said to be too small for the population and were not properly constructed. Of more concern to the petitioners were the stands that were being pegged around sewer ponds.
In response, the Chief Executive Officer of Makoni RDC, Dr Pise explained that Makoni RDC held a stakeholder consultation meeting on the increase of rates and rentals and only a few residents attended and did not register any objections. He explained that houses in the old location were allocated to applicants on rental basis. Sitting tenants were then offered to buy the houses and only those who managed to pay off the given purchase price were now the owners of the 63 out of 96 houses.
Dr. Pise also explained that the stands in Headlands were not title surveyed so there were no title deeds. The Council explained that consultations with the residents of Headlands on the issue of title deeds were done and only 10 people attended. It was highlighted that all stand holders in Headlands had leases.
In response to stands in Sunview and Sunset, Dr. Pise explained that applicants entered into agreements with Makoni RDC on the servicing of stands and paid according to agreed payment plans. However, some stand holders have not cleared up to their debts. It was submitted that 40 stands in Sunset were connected to sewer, roads were attended to, reticulation system was in progress, blasting of stones was done in Sunview and title surveying was done in Sunset. The Council explained that servicing was progressing according to collection of revenue. In Sunview suburb, there were 200 stands fully serviced with water and roads and over 200 stands to be serviced. Sunview is a low density area thereby residents have own site sewer. The Council had started exhumation of graves and was at an advanced stage.
The Council explained that Maungwe Investments was a wholly owned Private Limited Company of Makoni RDC and declares its annual dividends to Makoni RDC. The Chief Executive Officer is a board of director of Maungwe Investments by virtue of him being an employee of the Council. Maungwe Investments’ dividends contribute towards service delivery. The company hires permanent and casual labourers from the community. The Community of Headlands gets firewood from the company on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.
The Makoni RDC admitted that it banned the use of farm bricks under Environmental Management and Climate Change Resolution No. FC 97/2019. Farm bricks were banned as part of building material because of climate change resilience. Headlands is a semi urban area and standards set are the same as for urban set up.
The Committee noted the need for the Makoni RDC to conduct several meetings and consultations with the residents of Headlands. Some issues raised by petitioners could have been solved if the Council engaged the residents effectively.
Makoni RDC should consult its residents on issues of development, Maungwe Company and use of Council funds to avoid misconception because of lack of knowledge.
Committee’s Recommendations on Headlands Petition
The Makoni RDC should consult residents of Headlands on issues pertaining service delivery, council budget, revenue collection and devolution funds every quarter.
The Makoni RDC should solve the issue of rent to buy houses in Headlands with the residents and come up with a possible solution to issue title deeds by December 2022.
Budiriro High Density Community Water Supply Petition
The Committee had under its consideration a petition from Mr. Duma of Budiriro High Density Community Water Supply. The petitioners quoted the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in its General Comment No. 15 on the Right to Water which provides that States are required to ensure that each person has access to sufficient, safe, acceptable, accessible and affordable water for personal and domestic uses. The domestic uses of water include the prevention of death from dehydration, reduction of the risk of water related diseases, consumption, food preparation, washing and personal and domestic hygiene requirements. Section 77 (a) of our constitution provides that every person has a right to safe, clean and potable water.
The Budiriro Community pleaded with the Government of Zimbabwe and Harare City Council to urgently heed to its call towards the fulfillment of the right to water by mitigating the water supply challenges that the Budiriro Community was facing. The petitioners indicated that there were more than 5000 households that had not received tap water in the last five years. This was attributed to reservoirs which were meant to cater for 12 000 households but were now catering for almost 25 000 households. They also indicated that a Consortium from House Number 12 400 to 13 100 had no water for the last three years, Gleneagles Consortium had only 200 households out of 1300 receiving erratic water supply (from Stand Number 14 000 to 15 300). Households Numbers from 6 100 to 6 400 and 17 330 to 17 436 had no water for the past four years. In the CABS, Old Mutual Park area, households from 19 000 to 22 000 last received water in 2017 and Budiriro 4 Extension had not received water supply for the last four years.
The petitioners indicated that after the establishment of the Old Mutual Park, Gleneagles Consortiums, Budiriro 4 Extension and Budiriro West, there was no development of corresponding water infrastructure to cater for the growing population except the CABS reservoir. However, the Committee was informed that the constructed reservoir was condemned and was never commissioned.
The petitioners requested City of Harare to immediately address the issues of water challenges in Budiriro by coming up with short and medium plans. They also requested City of Harare to introduce a rationing system in the areas affected and make the CABS water reservoir functional by urgently addressing all the issues that led to the condemnation of the reservoir.
As part of its inquiry into the petition, the Committee received oral evidence from the City of Harare. Eng. Moyo the Acting Town Clerk for City of Harare informed the Committee that the water supply situation in Harare was not adequate due to the ever increasing demand. This was attributed to the expansion of the city while the water supply infrastructure remained static for many years.
He explained that City of Harare was currently producing an average of 320 mega liters per day while the Harare Metropolitan Province requires a minimum of 1200 mega litres per day. At some point in 2021, the Council managed to pump 420 mega litres but gone down to 320 mega litres because of the shutting down of Prince Edward water works. Prince Edward was shut down because of inadequate raw water in dams that supply the water works. Given the situation the City of Harare was facing; the Council came up with an institutional plan where residents share the little water that is available. The City of Harare’s target was that every household should get water at least twice a week. ,However, some residential areas in the southern suburbs like Budiriro, Glenview and Highfields were getting water about five times a week but there were other areas in Budiriro that were not getting water at all. The City’s water demand management strategy is that from Monday to Friday water is being pumped to Alex reservoir which supply Northern Suburbs of Highlands, Mount Pleasant, Avondale and the southern region which includes Glenview, Mufakose and Dzivarasekwa. Eng. Moyo further explained that on Friday nights, water was being pumped to Letombo in Msasa Park to service the Eastern suburbs and supply Greendale and Highlands areas and during weekends the concerned area that is Budiriro does not get any water.
It was also mentioned that CABS in Budiriro Ext, which had about five thousand stands was established in 2009. The local authority constructed a reservoir tank but the tank was not designed adequately so it was not receiving any water, resulting in sharing of water from the original Budiriro reservoir with the CABS area. They explained that the request by petitioners to rationing of water was already in place.
The Committee was informed that the Council was currently working on rehabilitating the valves in the Budiriro area so that they can effectively shut off the areas under rationing. This was being done through devolution funds from the Central Government.
In response to the proposed solutions by petitioners the local authority indicated that it was procuring new valves and replacing the aged pipes in the area. The Council normally pumps water from Morton Jeffry with one medium and small pump towards Marimba and Lochinvar reservoirs, so during the pumping process City of Harare usually shut down the outlet valves so as to improve supply to those areas either CABS or Budiriro.
Regarding its long and medium term plans to mitigate the water challenges, it was pointed out that while the Council had plans to operationalize the CABS reservoir, it was also their aim to continuously have their existing reservoir at a height of seven meters but that could not be achieved because of inadequate pumps at the Morton Jaffray water-works which was producing only 320 mega litres instead of the required 1 200 mega litres.
The Committee was informed that City of Harare and Central Government were working on improving water supply in order to avert the water crisis. Tenders had been advertised for valve and pipe replacement programmes and residents were also encouraged to pay their bills.
The Ministry of Local Government and Public Works in response to the petition indicated that Harare City was facing many challenges which include, among others, the expansion of the City and the aged water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) infrastructure which had led to over 60% non-revenue water. Furthermore, it was highlighted that residents owed the council about ZWL13 billion, which, if recovered would ameliorate the perennial WASH challenges in the City.
Committee’s Observations on Budiriro Petition
The Committee observed that while the petition was from Budiriro, the majority of areas in Harare and Zimbabwe were facing WASH challenges which required urgent intervention by the Government.
The Committee noted with concern that lack of adequate WASH facilities heightened the risk of water-borne infectious diseases such as cholera, typhoid and dysentery in most of Harare’s high density suburbs.
The Committee observed that the water supply infrastructure in Harare was obsolete and was leading to substantial losses in revenue due to the non-revenue water.
The Committee observed that Harare City Council was not effectively following up on debtors hence the failure to recover some of the funds owed by the public.
The Committee observed that the dams that supplied Harare with water were now inadequate due to the expansion of the City.
Committee’s Recommendations on Budiriro Petition
Since water is a right, devolution funds should be channeled towards water and sanitation to solve the perennial problem of water in Budiriro and other suburbs in Harare where water is a problem starting from 2023 financial year.
The contractor who constructed the reservoir for CABS area should rectify the problem to enable the reservoir to function properly and supply water to residents by December 2022.
Budiriro and Glen View suburbs should be declared red zones in terms of water provision to avoid outbreak of water borne diseases by August 2022.
City of Harare should replace water valves and old pipes in Budiriro by December 2022.
City of Harare should come up with a lasting solution to the water problems in Budiriro by providing water to every household at least three times a week by July 2022.
City of Harare should ensure water meter reading employees visit each household to take actual readings and desist from billing residents based on estimates by August 2022.
Petition from Southlands Residents Association
The petitioners were aggrieved that the right to education for the children of people living in the Southlands/Tariro Township had been violated by the City of Harare. Specifically, the petitioners observed that based on the initial surveyors plan for the area, there was land allocated for the construction of five schools. However, it was observed that City of Harare had allocated the land to land developers thus leaving the community without space for construction of affordable, accessible and available schools. Essentially, the petitioners believed that this was in direct contravention of the right to education.
Mr. A. Makara, the Chairperson of the Southlands Residents Association indicated that they approached Harare City Council concerning the issue. They presented to the Committee that five sites were earmarked for the construction of schools (3 sites for primary schools and 2 sites for secondary schools) in Southlands. However, much to their dismay, private players had occupied the sites and were in the process of developing residential areas. They further pointed out that their engagement with the Harare City Council yielded low positive results as they were told that they were supposed to find donors to construct the school in the area. Essentially, Harare City Council had reneged on its mandate to provide adequate education facilities in areas under its jurisdiction.
The petitioners bemoaned the lack of adequate education facilities in Southlands, yet the area had a growing number of children of school going age. They further observed that their children had to travel very long distances to find proper education facilities. This daily commute, as they pointed out, was too costly for them, cumbersome on their children who had to wake up early and come back home late and exposed them to risks that threatened the children’s health and wellbeing.
In response, Mr. Sithole from Harare City Council indicated that contrary to the allegations in the petition, the local authority had not allocated the sites to private land developers. Instead, the local authority, guided by the physical plan of the area produced by the Physical Planning Department in the Ministry of Local Government and Public Works, the local authority intended to construct seven primary and three secondary schools. He further pointed out that the local authority had intended to implement these projects using devolution funds, but those funds have been constrained. It is because of that reason that when they engaged with the petitioners, they pointed to the need to engage private partners in the construction of these education facilities.
The Committee observed the need for City of Harare to engage the residents whenever an issue of lack of provision of services has been raised. The Committee also noted that residents need to constantly approach the Council with their problems so as to come up with some solutions.
The Committee noted that the issue of schools involves the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education, Ministry of Local Government and Public Works and the City of Harare. These three entities need to come up with a solution to the issue of construction of schools in Southlands.
Residents of Southlands should also fulfil their obligations by paying rates to City of Harare to raise funding for the area to be developed.
Government should come up with lasting solution to settlement such as Southlands which were allocated to Housing Cooperatives. The beneficiaries went on to build houses where there were no basic infrastructure services such as sewer and water reticulation, roads, clinics and schools.
Government through the Ministries of Local Government and Public Works and Primary and Secondary Education and City of Harare should work together to ensure the available of schools in Southlands by December 2023.
Treasury should allocate resources to cater for the construction of schools in Southlands in the 2023 National Budget in order to avoid violation of the right to education as enshrined in our Constitution.
Going forward, Government should not allow construction of houses where there is no offsite infrastructure.
In conclusion, the report detailed and exposed the limitations in the implementation of devolution, provision of adequate services and the lack of public participation in the local economic development discourse. It is therefore imperative that the Government considers the plausible recommendations proffered by the Committee in order to ameliorate the challenges observed. I thank you.