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City council of Harare gets a rude awakening from disgruntled residents
Harare Residents' Trust (HRT)
November 06, 2012

The Harare City Council was left shaken yesterday after plus 200 residents stormed the building demanding that the Mayor and his council scrap all debt accumulated to end of the 2010, and ensure that water is made available to all residents, without any limits.

This action followed a false start to the process of negotiations between the residents and the City of Harare, which has continued to hoodwink residents that they are serious about resolving their issues. Efforts by HRT officials to engage the City treasury on these issues of collapsed service provision and debt cancellation have yielded negative results. Focus group discussions, public meetings were held, consistent with the HRT's policy of engagement but this has not helped the communities much.

The perennial attitude by Harare City Council of turning a deaf ear to the concerns of the residents has resulted in legitimate anger mounting within communities, and on Tuesday 6 November 2012, the seams burst and residents gathered for a peaceful protest, marking a new season of lobbying and advocacy within the HRT.

Residents' anger is primarily driven by the arrogant manner in which the City of Harare has issues letters of final demands, and summons, a clear attempt on the part of the local authority to provoke residents and cow them into submission, and settle illegally accumulated outstanding debts. The city has threatened property attachments for debts accumulated from estimated bills and unrendered water and refuse collection services. During the HRT's consultative meetings, the residents were clear that they wanted the council to bill them for rendered services and not solely rely on estimated billing which short-changed them.

It is against this background that suburbs like Mabvuku, Highfield and Glen Norah mooted the idea of holding a demonstration against City of Harare for non compliance in cancellation of debt accrued from February 2009 to December 2010 where services from City of Harare were non-existent in their areas. Residents from other suburbs concurred with the three suburbs and willingly participated in the Town House demonstration, which had the participation of residents from Mbare, Tafara, Kuwadzana Phase 3, Rugare, Waterfalls, Mufakose, Highfield, Dzivarasekwa 3, Crowborough, Glen Norah and Mabvuku, among others.

During the demonstration, which the police were informed about, the HRT Director Mr Precious Shumba addressed the residents in front of Town House, explaining that the HRT will no longer contain the anger of residents and the council had to genuinely engage and attend to their demands for debt cancellation and urgently improve water delivery to their households. He then handed over a petition signed by 3 000 residents from across Harare.

"This demonstration is symbolic by nature, and marks a change in the approaches of the HRT where residents' grievances are concerned," Shumba said. "The people who continue to earn monthly salaries on the sweat and blood of residents are not thinking of submitting themselves to the supreme authority of residents of Harare. Services have collapsed, and life remains extremely painful for most residents in Harare. From today on, be warned that residents will gather in their thousands, especially towards month-end at community District Offices, until the council has responded to the demands of residents."

In response, Deputy Mayor Chiroto, who received the HRT petition on behalf of the Mayor, who is away, said residents had a right to quality services, and it was indeed a collective responsibility to ensure a better life for all people.

"As council we are receiving your petition," he said. "We are going to read through it and adequately respond to residents' grievances. We are going to have a meeting with the Mayor, the Town Clerk and residents' representatives so that we discuss and find a common position that will be beneficial to everyone at the end of the day."

Residents sang songs of encouragement, displaying placards with various service delivery messages some that read as follows: Tired of drinking sewerage water! Bvisai zvikwereti kubva February 2009 kusvika December 2010! No to Interest! Reduce Salaries for management! Taneta nemasamanisi and tired of chaotic billing system! among others. The suburban leaders took turns to share their communities' struggles. Mabvuku residents are bitter that parts of the suburb have not received any water for more than six years to date yet they are receiving final demands and summons, as a result of the City of Harare's actions.

Going forward, the demonstrators said the City of Harare had until 30 November 2012 to resolve the residents' grievances, failure of which residents will select dates to gather at community District Offices where council revenue is paid, and transmitted to Rowan Martin Building, the City Treasury headquarters. If councillors fail to resolve this matter, residents vowed to disrupt council full council meetings, because the councillors cannot ignore residents' issues. They came from the residents.

Visit the Harare Residents' Trust fact sheet

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