Gweru (New Ziana) –Hundreds of disgruntled residents from Mkoba high density suburb in the Midlands capital Gweru on Thursday morning besieged the local council offices to protest over poor service delivery.
The Administration Hall in Mkoba 6 houses the district council offices which serve residents that cannot commute to the Town House in the Central Business District.
The call by the Gweru Residents and Ratepayers Association (GRRA) to demand better service delivery in the city, with a population of about 160 000 people, triggered the peaceful demonstration.
The placard-waving residents complained over deteriorating service delivery, which includes unavailability of clean running water, uncollected garbage, non-functional street lights, potholed roads, among other ills.
Some of the messages on the placards included, “We Demand Water”, “Stop Estimating Our Bills”, “Tariff Rebasing Is Killing Us”, “Stop Property Attachments”, “Stop Taking Us For Granted #Our Voice Matters”, among others.
The protestors complained bitterly about the basing of the 2022 budget to United States dollars without proper consultation, estimating of bills and hiking of tariffs by over 1 000 percent.
The Zimbabwe National Organisation of Residents Trusts (ZNORT) has said the rebasing was illegal, while the Gweru Residents and Ratepayers Association and the Gweru United Progressive Residents and Ratepayers Development Association have also queried the rebasing.
GRRA executive director, Cornilia Selipiwe said the move taken by council to disconnect water supplies to residents over outstanding bills “was uncalled for”.
She said residents were not fighting the local authority but wanted to create an engagement platform.
“We are here to make peace not conflict or confrontation. Engagement platforms are critical towards a better Gweru.”
One of the residents, a senior citizen, Arthur Chikwadzi, also expressed anger over lack of consultation by the local authority, describing it as “a betrayal of the electorate”.
Contacted for comment Gweru City Council spokesperson Vimbai Chingwaramusee said: “We encourage residents to engage with the local authority for a progressive way forward. We are doing budget review meetings and soon budget consultation meetings as we advertise these meetings we encourage stakeholders and residents to come and air their views.”
City of Gweru finance director Livingstone Churu is on recording saying that the translation of the approved 2022 budget to USD using the prevailing interbank rate does not give rise to a new budget nor a supplementary one but preserved its intrinsic value.