Councils functions are to GOVERN not to Deliver Services

Written by
  • Kudzai Chatiza
  • posted 1 year ago

  • Governments have layers or tiers with distinct and overlapping responsibilities. If one layer/tier performs its functions well the rest of government benefits. The opposite is also true. Cases of one tier undermining the performance of another are commonplace. In such cases, state design and political culture may be the reason for institutional disharmony.

    Delivering services to citizens and residents[1] is a core function of governance. It involves the exercise of governmental powers and responsibilities. Governance failure or strain is seen through services not being delivered, being spatially or socially inequitable or generally of poor quality. For urban Zimbabwe, political leaders, public servants, citizens, and residents generally consider local authorities as having failed. National political leaders usually use urban service failure as evidence that the political opposition has failed, is corrupt, and therefore unfit to govern. This pot-calling-kettle-black framing is deceitful.

    Services are not an exclusive function of local authorities. Theirs is ‘…to represent and manage the affairs of people in [their urban/rural] areas’ (Government of Zimbabwe 2013, Constitution of Zimbabwe s5c, i. & ii). The purpose of the necessary governmental powers they need to perform their governance responsibilities are ‘…to give powers of local governance to the people and enhance their [people’s] participation in the exercise of the powers of the State and in making decisions affecting them, …promote democratic, effective, transparent, accountable and coherent government in Zimbabwe…recognise the right of communities to manage their own affairs and to further their development…ensure the equitable sharing of local and national resources’ (ibid, Constitution of Zimbabwe, s264:2a, b, d and e).

    Gaps in service delivery therefore indicate: 

    1.     Failure of political representation and management necessary for people’s affairs to thrive 
    2.     Inadequate transfer of powers that give effect to local governance necessary for citizens and residents to fully participate in the exercise of the power of the state, and 
    3.     Weaknesses in the exercise of communities’ right to manage their own affairs


    Essentially, citizens and residents are the ones responsible for ensuring their affairs are managed in an effective, accountable, transparent, democratic, and coherent manner. Local authorities are the closest governmental agent responsible for representing them (across government) and managing their affairs. National government develops and implements appropriate policies and laws that support local authorities and residents in managing local affairs effectively. Constant reference to service failure as a responsibility of local authorities is unhelpful. Further, imagining local authorities as outside Zimbabwe’s government system to the point of openly undermining their performance is irresponsible.

    A society and its economy deliver services. Poor governance from macro to local levels undermines the process of equitable and sustainable delivery of services. Undermining local authority capacities obstructs execution of governmental powers and responsibilities at all levels. There is nothing like a ZANU PF-run government or an opposition-run local authority outside political rally-speak. National and local government agencies are part of one Government of Zimbabwe. Residents and citizens, from whom the power to govern is derived have a responsibility to discipline the exercise of governmental power OUTSIDE elections. They should not cheer one level undermining another as the negative outcomes of intergovernmental friction directly and negatively affect them. 


    [1] The former refers to nationals of a jurisdiction while residents may include non-nationals. Residents includes both

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