Centre News Reporter
Poor attendance have blemished Masvingo City Council’s 2023 budget consultation meetings that are currently ongoing and were carried out in a huff, as the majority of residents are not aware of the process that was done at short notice.
Council commenced the budget consultative process last Thursday in a bid to capture residents inputs but some of the meetings were forced to a screeching halt and postponed after less than 10 residents turned up in some wards that have at-least 3000 residents.
About 10 residents attended ward 10 consultation meeting on Sunday forcing council to postpone the meeting to a date yet to be announced.
In ward 4, at Runyararo Primary School only 25 residents attended the meeting and less than 10 attended ward 2 meetings forcing the city fathers to postpone.
Residents have blamed council for ambushing them at short notice by extending an invitation barely 12 hours before the meetings last week.
The invitations were sent on unofficial social media WhatsApp groups.
“We are not even aware that budget consultative meetings have begun, that’s why most residents are not attending. How on earth can they use WhatsApp to invite us to such an important process, not everyone is on that platform, this is ridiculous,” said Tariro Gumbo of ward 3.
Gumbo added that she learnt that the meeting in her ward had already been done and is worried that many residents failed to attend due to lack of information.
Sungano Zvarebwanashe a resident of ward 4 who attended the Runyararo meeting said she pleaded with officials to postpone the meetings to allow residents to be mobilized but her pleas fell on deaf ears.
“I counted the people there were 25 residents and 10 council officials, we pleaded with them to reschedule the meeting so that residents can be mobilized so that they could capture residents inputs adequately but the refused and went ahead. We are worried that the small numbers can-not reflect the views of such a big ward,” Zvarebwanashe said.
Masvingo United Residents and Ratepayers Alliance(MURRA) said the poor attendance at the meetings are a cause for concern as the low numbers can-not be a true reflection of the residents’ representation in those wars.
MURRA Director, Anoziva Muguti accused the council of failing to take head to their pleas to defer their meetings by one week to allow mobilization from various stakeholders including his organization.
“How do we partner with council to mobilise residents when we don’t have the information? We were told about the meetings or we just learnt about that on social media a few hours before the meetings and it’s not fair to blame residents when they are not aware of the meetings,” said Muguti.
MURRA engaged its legal team from Mutendi, Mudisi and Shumba legal practitioners to stop the meetings until residents were notified in time but council ignored the letter that had legal implications.
Centre News could not get a comment from Masvingo Mayor, Collen Maboke who was not reachable by time of going to print.
Speaking on one of residents’ WhatsApp platforms, Ward 4 Councilor, Aleck Tabe, however, blamed residents for lack of interest in attending such meetings, a notion that was shot down by residents who blamed city fathers for failing to notify them in time.
Residents argue that council was supposed to invite them using official channels; moving around with a Public Address (PA) system announcing the meetings in every ward days before the meetings.
Others felt that the meetings were supposed to be advertised in the conventional media like the newspapers and community radio stations like Hevoi FM that have a wider reach and huge listenership.