Residents in Bulawayo and various cities have called for de-harmonising local government elections to improve attention paid to council candidates in local government elections. This came at a stakeholder meeting organized by Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association (BPRA) and Women Institute Leadership Development (WILD) to share findings for the Local Government Elections Survey Report – The Uncertainty of 2018 done last year from August – October 2017 with a sample of 3640 respondents.
Lead Researcher Dr Davison Muchadenyika said the study observed that the timing of local government elections should not coincide with presidential and parliamentary elections as it does not raise the profile of local government elections and that it does not increase political competition during council elections.
Interviewed on the side-lines of the meeting Honourable Malaba MP Phumula Constituency also ZANU PF parliamentary candidate who was also present at the meeting said “It is an important recommendation for an election, when elections are separated people will opt for quality than in harmonised elections where people opt for partisan arrangement” “It is a very sound recommendation, legislators must take it into account and perhaps raise a motion parliament, he added. He said that he will foster a sense of serious consideration and definitely put it as his party agenda and that there is however still need for wider consultation.
MDC Alliance local government council candidate for Ward 9 Mr Mabutho Donaldson concurred with MP Malaba and said “De-harmonisation gives people an opportunity to choose candidates based on their strengths, because during harmonised elections people are told to vote for a party name, but de-harmonisation helps to look for strengths, capacity of every individual” He pointed that harmonised elections confuse the electorate and makes people just to vote without knowing the candidates abilities.
Asked to comment on the de-harmonisation recommendation from the researchers at the same meeting Mr Fortune Mlalazi People’s Rainbow Coalition Candidate for Magwegwe Constituency said “We definitely need to de-harmonise so that there is more concentration on local government business, this will allow us to choose quality candidates because we will be more focused and give more attention to local development” He said in South African for example there are separate elections between national and local government elections.
The study also revealed that 60% of the respondents of local government election survey prefer mayors with executive powers and 52.4% prefer councillors to work full time at the council. The study also recommended that CSO must play a critical role to organise debate sessions for council candidates, publish and disseminate credentials of candidates, provide the electorate with simplified checklists of issues to look for in parties and candidates an election campaign and manifestos.
The survey was conducted by the ‘We Pay You Deliver’ (WPYD) Civil Society Consortium focusing on harnessing citizen demand for improved service delivery & transparent use of public resources. The Consortium was comprised of Danish Church Aid, Combined Harare Residents Association, Harare Residents Trust , Habakkuk Trust, ZWRCN, Diakonia and the two organizations that hosted the meeting. Project target areas were Harare Bulawayo, Mutare, Masvingo & Umzingwane.
By Michael Mdladla Ndiweni