BULAWAYO City Council (BCC) has been urged to set up a system to handle ratepayers’ petitions amid charges that the local authority “has no clear-cut format” of handling grievances.

In a petition dated June 3, activist and Bulawayo resident Khumbulani Maphosa complained that the council has no system of submitting, handling and responding to petitions.

Maphosa argued that petitions he had so far submitted to the local authority on various occasions have been handled differently and by different departments, raising the need for a clear system.

“All the petitions I have submitted to the BCC have been handled differently, that is, responded to in different length and times and in different manner and this makes me believe that the BCC does not have a systematic manner of handling residents’ petitions and petitions from (other people and) groups,” Maphosa wrote in the petition addressed to town clerk Christopher Dube.

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It was copied to mayor Solomon Mguni and other council departments.

Maphosa noted that the right to petition was critical for residents to enjoy the freedom of conscience as outlined in section 60 of the Constitution.

He also argued that establishing a system for petitions would also partially fulfil principles of public administration as espoused in section 194 of the Constitution.

“I, therefore, propose that the BCC establish a system/framework which will guide the format for submitting petitions to the local authority as well as the method of handling the citizens’ petition by the local authority,” Maphosa said.

“Critically, the system/framework should capture the structure of writing the petition, how and where to submit the petition, how and when the local authority should respond to the petition, and follow-up mechanisms for the petitioners among others.”

Contacted for comment, Mguni denied the local authority did not have a system for handling petitions.

He, instead, argued that the process of dealing with complaints was not an overnight event.

“We have a robust system that we have at play. For example, we have the public relations department which handles complaints from all our stakeholders who (may) want to engage council on anything,” Mguni said.

“What happens is that when petitions are submitted they are circulated through relevant departments before there is a response. It is not something that can be done overnight.”