The Sunday News
THE Bulawayo City Council prides itself as being one of the best run local authorities in the country.
It has a history of ethical conduct among office bearers, but things took a turn for the worse in recent years when councillors started engaging in self enriching shenanigans, with some top council officials also being sucked in underhand dealings.
Of concern is that service delivery has also gone down, with roads not being repaired and some left half done especially in new suburbs. Stories of private contractors doing half jobs and getting away with bags full of money have been reported. Stories of councillors using their political offices to enrich themselves appear to be prevalent, and it appears no remedial action is being taken to stop such malpractices.
When councillors campaign for political office in the run up to elections, they pledge to serve the people and the city, but it seems what they really aim to do is to help themselves with access to business opportunities and council land.
And that has to stop. The previous bunch of councillors took the cup with allegations of shady deals being the order of the day, resulting in some of them being suspended from office over a raft of allegations involving underhand dealings and rampant corruption.
It would appear such stories did not end with the previous councillors as some sitting councillors have been caught in the web of allegations of land grabs and stampeding for tenders to run council business facilities at the expense of rate payers. Residents are yet to see any tangible developments on the ground, but councillors have not wasted time in parcelling out land to each other, never mind that some of the deals come as perks for the offices they hold.
It is however, the manner in which everything is being done, as office bearers are putting themselves ahead of residents and service delivery. Moreover, councillors are already busy trying to lay their hands on council business premises, which is a clear sign of greediness and to an extent, abuse of office as there are already stories of infighting among councillors over some of the deals.
In the past councillors have been caught on the wrong side of the law with regards to the land scheme with some councillors going further, leasing out public property like factory shells, public toilets and flea markets to themselves.
The councillors have also been accused of influencing the allocation of council property for lease such as kiosks, bottle stores and beer halls, a role that is supposed to be played by council officials.
The calamity of the self-enrichment syndrome in local authorities countrywide needs a serious check, before senior council officials and junior officers, who have not yet joined the band wagon, that is, join in and collapse local authorities.
A collapse of local authorities would mean a collapse of urban life and a serious threat to efforts to transform the economy.
Residents do not need councillors who when voted into office, declare that “it is their time to eat”.