Zimbabwean Government’s efforts to improve service delivery not convincing at all!

Posted: September 14, 2012 in Uncategorized

State attempts to improve service delivery have not been encouraging since the formation of the coalition government in 2009. City Councils across the country seem to be failing to present a proper plan on how problems like water and electricity shortages could be resolved. We hear more about problems related to corruption and much more about internal power struggles than encouraging service delivery news. In Bulawayo, for example, we are told that people can go up to two weeks without clean water. Burst pipes and sewage leaks are common phenomena in councils like Chitungwiza and other areas. In Harare, these water problems are the same that in the past have brought the cholera epidemics that have cost many lives as people die from using contaminated water. I see this as a huge problem because a major reason why we elect politicians is to help us coordinate better service delivery once they’ve collected taxes from us. For some reason we don’t seem to be putting enough pressure on local government to deliver and we are expected to live with these problems while the officials responsible drive around guilt-free in their new priority cars.

Complications of the Matabeleland Zambezi Water Project – Delayed service to the people

While we all welcome news that Matabeleland Zambezi Water Project (MZWP) has finally secured funding to build the pipeline that will address water problems in the region, we should be asking questions about the procedures that are being laid out by government to make this dream a reality. We should worry about the continuing fruitless government meetings and other technical

Taps with no water in Bulawayo!

misunderstandings which raise doubts about whether the work is being done to address the urgent problems of water shortages. First, for years this project has been called Matabeleland Zambezi Water Project (MZWP) and now we are told the Minister of Water and his advisors for this project have changed the name to National Matabeleland Water Project (NMZWP). I wonder how this name change is expected to will speed the process up – it looks suspiciously like an addition of government bureaucracy with no proper relation to the actual delivery of water services. To what does the “National” refer? I’m told that now that the government has finally put its house in order to act, it now feels the benefits of this project must not be limited to people residing around the proposed pipeline.

Indigenisation for the chosen

It is clear that this project will create a massive agriculture green belt but we all know that local residents are likely to miss the opportunity to reap the benefits as they don’t have enough capital to start irrigation schemes and productive farming in the area. For long we have been told how work in this project has been underway, only to realise now that it is more about politicking than serious efforts to help ease water shortages. The same Chinese company that the Minister is said to have instructed to resume work on this project has been on site for the past three decades with no proper progress made and I wonder what if anything has changed. It is not surprising; therefore, that many people – particularly local residents – are sceptical about the project and its potential beneficiaries.

The second question to ask has to do with the Minister Sipepa Nkomo’s  statement that the money to be used to construct the pipeline was a loan that constituted “cheap money” because it would be paid back over 25 years at an interest rate of about three percent per year. This seems unlikely to me because there is nowhere in history that suggest huge loans of this nature have been provided without a higher price to pay. Zimbabwe makes enough money from diamond revenues and exploitation of other natural resources that if they were really concerned about constructing this pipe in a cost effective way, some of those revenues would be used in this project rather than taking money from the Chinese. The Minister may play down the loan but we all know that we will owe the Chinese a lot of money over time and we will pay huge taxes to recover the loan. Even if not directly, Zimbabwe has allowed the Chinese to mine our resources with little accountability and benefits to our treasury and then continues to loan us the same money – we can no doubt expect more of these favours to be handed out. It is therefore important for citizens to assess government priorities and demand accountability before we are made to pay for our own resources.

Encouragement to local communities

My encouragement to local communities would be for them to do some research and identify possible projects that could arise as a result of the pipe project. Once that is done, locals can lobby government not to allow foreign elements to dictate what needs to be done in their area. This is in line with the current government indigenisation program and locals must fear no shame in in doing so. After all it is their children who have no future in their own land and have chosen to seek refuge in neibouring countries. If locals are aware of the proposed agriculture projects in the area, they can consider forming partnerships with whoever wants to invest in the area under arrangements that allow them to be the main beneficiaries. One of the reasons why residents in Matabeleland believe the project took a long time to started is that the government felt that there was little benefit to be gained from the project. Now that individuals within the government, mainly from ZANU PF, have made enough money to splash around as local investors across the country through the indigenisation programme and other national self-gain programs, in reality, they are the new colonisers. It is up to the locals to organise to express themselves and establish greater resistance in order for them to control and benefit from their own natural resources. Without proper investment in local people, projects such as the NMZWP will be recipes for future resources wars which could lead to greater poverty, political instability and even destructive civil war.

The sooner we speak out against the government’s failure to provide service to communities, the sooner politicians will know their place in politics.

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