The Chronicle

Mashudu Netsianda, Senior Reporter

PRESIDENT Mnangagwa yesterday issued a stern warning against corrupt councillors and council officials who divert public funds for personal use, saying Government will not hesitate to punish those caught on the wrong side of the law.

Addressing delegates during the Urban Councils’ Association of Zimbabwe (UCAZ) annual conference in Bulawayo, President Mnangagwa said he was concerned about levels of corruption in local authorities. 

“I am concerned by appalling levels of corruption and mismanagement of public funds and properties by both councillors and council officials who play hide and seek with Government officials in the process of financial management. Those who are prone to corruption, the sun is setting. As public servants your duty is to protect such public assets in your local authorities for the improvement of the welfare of your communities,” he said.

 “I exhort you to guard against putting self-interest ahead of serving the electorate and those who engage in corrupt activities shall be punished. Forewarned is forearmed. You must monitor the activities of your fellow councillors and council officials in order to rid councils and indeed our society of this cancer of corruption.”

He said under the Second Republic, there was a need to build a legacy of good governance, accountability and transparency for the prosperity of the country. 

“I want to implore you as servants of the people to undertake your duties with humility, professionalism, compassion and patriotism. You are not masters of the people but servants of the people. Let us always listen to the people and seek to serve them and meet their needs and going forward I call for more frequent dialogue with us in the central Government,” said President Mnangagwa.

The President said councillors and council officials were key stakeholders in the country’s economic growth and attainment of Vision 2030 aimed at transforming Zimbabwe’s economy into an upper middle-income status. 

“You are the people who either make our towns function or disfunction. This critical conference provides us with an opportunity to share first-hand information on some of the pressing issues and key matters relevant to the urban local government sector as well as our national aspirations as a nation. In doing so it is ideal for us to come up with solutions on how to tackle the various challenges encountered,” he said.

President Mnangagwa said dialogue remained one of the core values of the Second Republic and urged councillors to continue engaging with other key stakeholders such as Government ministers, ministries, industrialists and members of the business community. 

“This culture is commendable and should continue for it is only through dialogue that sustainable solutions can be found and national cake fairly shared in the nation. In our engagements let us always be guided and informed by our national interest above all. As the governance pillars at the local level you here gathered are the drivers of local economy, which I call the provincial economies,” he said.

The President reiterated the need to speed up the implementation of devolution, saying it was pivotal in the economic growth of communities at provincial and metropolitan level. 

“My Government is desirous to give full meaning to devolution. The concept of devolution has been there for many years, but I have said we must now implement it. It is only through this approach that we can achieve sustainable development that leaves no one behind. It is my belief that the central Government cannot prioritise the needs of a community far away from Harare, but the people of that community themselves should be empowered to resolve and be able to prioritise their challenges to achieve solutions in their communities,” he said.

“The days of Harare, the capital city being bambazonke as far as development is concerned are over. Under my administration our communities shall have equal opportunities to realise socio-economic development of our people which they deserve.”

President Mnangagwa said his vision was to see the realisation of distinct provincial economies developing and competing against each other in line with Vision 2030.

“There is not a single promise which has no advantages and opportunities relative to itself. Our success or failure as a nation is best depicted by your collective performance. You must therefore take it upon yourself to gear up for higher productivity, growth and job creation as we accelerate our journey towards Vision 2030,” he said.

President Mnangagwa said local authorities have a responsibility to create jobs, wealth and modernise the economy which they superintend in their respective areas of jurisdiction.

“Our citizens have entrusted us with a responsibility of bettering our livelihoods. As servant leaders we must serve them well and build a Zimbabwe we all want. It is important for all of us in central Government and you the local authorities to close ranks and create synergies and work with a unity of purpose. The provision of key services such as clean water, modern and efficient solid waste management systems, good roads, educational institutions, well stocked primary health care facilities among other social amenities can only be realised if we constantly dialogue, collaborate and share challenges and solutions which we face,” he said.

“The new culture in the Second Republic is that there is no longer an us and them, we are all Zimbabweans, one people united for the love of our country and desire to serve our communities and improve the quality of life of our masters who are our people.”

He said urban settlements were the face of the country in the outside world hence the need for councils to address the issue of the general wellbeing of people that will leave a lasting impression on visitors, tourists and investors. 

“The performance of all our local urban authorities must therefore be cementation of what Zimbabwe is and aspires to be. Local authorities have an obligation of delivering affordable, efficient, reliable and sustainable services to the people. Their performance ultimately influences the performances of all other sectors within their respective localities and cumulatively the country as a whole will be influenced. I urge you all to streamline operations and prioritise activities in line with the national agenda,” he said.

The President challenged local authorities to drive the economic agenda and grow provincial economies as well as compete in the modernisation of those economies.

He said Ministers should work closely with local authorities, provincial and metropolitan councils to achieve the national development agenda. 

“In the Second Republic let us focus less on politics and more on economics, productivity and job creation. In between general elections there should be development, growth and collaboration. The development of our country has been stagnant for too long mainly due to illegal economic sanctions imposed on us. Now let us work together and catch up with others in the region and beyond and working together no challenges are insurmountable,” said the President.

He said Government was committed to facilitating capital expenditure for local authorities with some of these funds having since been disbursed to local authorities and being used to complement priority projects such as water and sanitation and other capital projects.

“Councils should exhaust funds not through buying cars or air conditions, no, that money should be spent on development. In the past we used to source financing from the World Bank.  

“However, since the imposition of illegal economic sanctions, we are unable to access funds for infrastructure development, but we are not going to mourn because we have resources and we must be financial engineers so that we are able to do the things that we want on the basis of our domestic resources,” said President Mnangagwa.

He urged councils to develop innovative and robust strategies to help accelerate infrastructure projects. The President also urged banks and private sector to partner local authorities to develop modern infrastructure within our respective communities. 

The President also warned councils against allowing the abuse of wetlands, saying was Government was working on modalities aimed at addressing the effects of climate change.

The President also urged councils to embrace national clean up campaigns as well as beautification and landscaping within their areas. — @mashnets.