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Bridging the gap between residents and councillors

Bridging the gap between residents and councillors

Representing several thousands of residents has been complex for councillors since political and social patterns have been evolving. Which means communities are diverse and it has never been easy for them to fully understand the nature of their ward particularly on all of their issues and problems. Residents of Gweru have not been frequently engaging their councillors and that has been a stumbling block towards the development of the city.

As Gweru Residents and Ratepayers Association (GRRA) we have created platforms for engagement between residents and councillors through our ward based meetings in the city.  Our ward based meetings had the goal to empower residents to demand accountability from their elected leaders especially at the local level as well as make councillors subject to scrutiny with the vision to improve performance and transparency at the local authority.

Councillor for Ward 4 Martin Chivhoko said ward based meetings have opened up channels of dialogue and cooperation between the residents and councillors.

“These ward based meetings have improved our communication with residents. We better understand their problems or challenges and they have created platforms to craft solutions for our communities.

“It has been difficult for us to mobilize the community to attend our meetings because of the polarized political environment. Simply because the councillor comes from political party A or B, is a problem in our society today.

“That mentality needs to be removed because the problems that we face in our communities will affect everyone whether you are from political party A or B, rich or poor, educated or not. We have to come together as residents to tackle these social evils,” he said.

Ruth Sibanda  a resident of ward 4 says ward based meetings have created interactive forums that offers key information to stakeholders so as to bring together the various actors involved in governance at the local level.

“This has opened up access to information about local governance issues and made participation easier and oversight more powerful.

“We as residents never had such platforms to meet our councillors and we only saw them on the ballot paper. It was hard to approach them for help but now I have meet my Councillor and realize they are just residents like ourselves,” she said.

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