SK: What are the roles of ARDCZ and ZILGA?
DGM: Basically, the role of the two is advocacy and lobbying Government for anything we deem fit to enhance service delivery across the country.
SK: Why do you need three different organisations — ARDCZ, UCAZ and ZILGA — all with one common agenda? Can’t one association handle it to avoid duplication?
DGM: The first two have been there for decades, before merging into ZILGA. However, they all exist separately. Rural and urban set-ups are different, and so are the challenges. ARDCZ looks at rural issues while UCAZ looks at urban issues in depth. They, however, have common issues, like the allowances for councillors, among other issues. In other countries, they recognise ZILGA as it brings the two together.
SK: What have been some of your achievements since assuming the leadership of the associations?
DGM: We have achieved a lot in terms of addressing welfare issues for councillors. Up to November 2019, the allowances were a pittance. We had an indaba with President Mnangagwa and he intervened. The benchmark is now half of what legislators earn, this applies to both urban and rural councillors.
Secondly, we have been advocating for the five percent inter-governmental fiscal transfer to be released to the local authorities. We are, as a result getting devolution funds to develop our districts.
We have also been organising training workshops for councillors, where professionals come to equip us with various skills.
We are also seized with issues around delays by the Procurement Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (PRAZ), which have since been partially addressed.
SK: There is a general perception that councillors should offer their services voluntarily, with no expectation for remuneration. What’s your take on this?
DGM: No! Whoever says so is still living in the colonial era where councillors would volunteer their services. We serve at grassroots level and if we are well resourced, we are able to expend all our energy towards service delivery. Imagine if there is no remuneration, how then can we move from point A to B? Councillors also need vehicles or motorbikes. A motorbike would be more ideal, but motor vehicles would also be an added advantage to the community as councillors can assist in times of need, like when there are funerals or medical emergencies.
SK: What attributes should one possess to be an effective councillor? Should educational qualifications be an issue?
DGM: At times when you look at the challenges in urban councils, you are forced to scrutinise how some of the councillors articulate developmental issues. As you do so, you are left with more questions than answers. If one is not educated up to a minimum certain level, say five O-Levels, then they are not the right person for the job. Then I suggest that one must own a property before they become an urban councillor. How can you discuss billing issues when you are a tenant? Exposure, age and maturity are also important factors, a councillor must be at least 24 years old.
SK: How do you rate the performance of Manicaland’s rural and urban councils, in terms of service delivery?
DGM: Councils are generally doing well due to the devolution funds, but before that they had been lagging behind. You must also understand that service delivery is not only about councillors, but also the accounting officers –the CEOs, town secretaries and clerks. As I have said before, are the councillors able to articulate the issues and give sound advice to policy makers? Some don’t even have self-confidence.
The Ministry of Local Governance rates councils and the Makoni RDC has been winning most of the awards. Rusape Town Council (RTC) was also doing very well when (Joshua) Maligwa was still there. Ever since he moved to Mutare City Council, he has managed to lift the city to a certain extent. That is why I am emphasising on the calibre of the CEO and their positive influence on policymakers.
If you have policymakers who only attend council meetings to second motions without ever coming up with their own ideas, then that council will eventually collapse. If people who elected such councillors were to assess their performance during meetings, they would be disappointed. Upon election, we train councillors so that they know their duties and articulate issues from an informed position.
SK: In local authorities, there has been a wave of disgruntlement over PRAZ’s operations. Can you explain where this is emanating from?
DGM: PRAZ is a very good organ. It was formed to curb corruption. Officials would buy substandard goods at inflated prices. There was massive looting as buyers and suppliers connived to loot as there were no checks and balances.
However, PRAZ centralised essential procurements.
The process was unnecessarily bureaucratic and greatly affected councils. By the time you got approvals, the prices would have gone up manifold. In the current economic environment, PRAZ’s operations do not make local authorities’ operations any easier. We have a number of council projects that have been stalled because of that, and therefore the outcry from local authorities is genuine. The process must be decentralised, we cannot be centralising it at a time when we are talking of devolution. PRAZ units must be located in every province, it will be cheaper and faster.
SK: A lot of local authorities have been accused of corruption. Is ARDCZ, UCAZ and ZILGA adequately capacitated to eradicate corruption in local authorities? What have they done to complement Government’s efforts to curb corruption?
DGM: Some officials have been jailed for corruption. Most of these are urban local authorities’ officials who would have been implicated in issues to do with residential stands.
But corruption takes many forms.
In the past, the minister would interfere with decisions made at local authority level and this fuelled corruption as councillors and CEOs had to bend the rules to keep their jobs.
Now things are totally different, you can’t just fire a councillor willy-nilly, there is a procedure to be followed and that security enables us to work without fear and to reject corrupt proposals.
The corruption cases in urban councils usually involve the accounting officers who abuse their powers.
But at national level, the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Corruption is on the lookout for any such corrupt activities.
SK: What is your opinion on the delays in the alignment of the RDC Act and UC Act to the new constitution?
DGM: This has to be prioritised. That needs to be done as soon as yesterday to enable the Acts to resonate with the constitution. However, I understand that it is work in progress.
SK: What is the relationship between councillors and MPs? Why are councillors accused of exploiting their proximity to the grassroots to frustrate MPs’ programmes?
DGM: Some MPs want to claim ownership of the constituencies, which is wrong. Each constituency is made up of wards presided over by councillors who are concentrating on their service delivery mandate.
However, an effective councillor is always a threat to a lazy MP. The legislators need to be reminded that the councillors have the right to be ambitious. Very few want to be councillors for life.
Personally, it is my wish to move up to become a legislator, a Senator or a member of the Zanu-PF Politburo.
But generally there is a good working relationship between councillors and MPs.
SK: Any parting shots Councillor?
DGM: Local authorities have done extremely well in providing decent services under difficult circumstances. Some projects are lagging behind due to poor revenue generation.
It is also my wish for councillors from across the country to constantly interact with the President like we did when all the country’s councillors, including the 250 opposition councillors, met the President. These are the people on the ground so such meetings are crucial.