Public office bearers and stakeholders in Gweru have called for improved public participation in budget formulation as well as other public and civic engagements.
Speaking during an Ideas laboratory workshop held in Mkoba by the Gweru Residents and Ratepayers Association (GRRA), ward 10 councillor Charles Chikozho said the biggest challenge council faces when drafting budgets or coming up with development plans is limited residents’ participation.
“We need to do awareness campaigns and to encourage people to participate in local governance issues. People need to be convinced that council is not the councillor or the council worker. This will help us come up with inclusive policies,” he said.
Cllr Chikozho urged city fathers to be always in touch with their wards so as to enhance representation.
“We as councillors should give feedback to residents after every full council meeting as well as getting information from wards,” he said.
The former Gweru mayor added that development committees should be non-partisan and where necessary, councillors should not appoint their election campaign managers as ward development chairpersons.
“We need to separate politics and development. Sometimes appointing one’s campaign manager as ward development committee chairperson might be deemed political thereby pushing away residents,” he added.
Speaking at the same event, Manicaland State University lecturer Moses Jachi, a local governance expert said residents’ solutions are sometimes not taken on board because they do not participate.
“Participation is critical and there is need to emphasise on the various groups in our wards like teachers, churches and others by including them in ward development committees.
“Marginalised groups like the youths, women and disabled must also not be left out,” he said Jachi.
Explaining the workshop’s aim, GRRA programmes officer, Fadzai Kanyai said their organisation aimed to ensure that local level plans and opinions are included in major city decisions and also make sure that locals ideas are incorporated into the overall budget.
“There is need for rigorous lobbying and advocacy by residents on key issues as they have been left out for a very long time in major decisions including the budget making process,” she said.
Kanyai also said most residents are not aware of how they can be part of the process and GRRA was organising workshops to educate residents.