WITH President Emmerson Mnangagwa having proclaimed the July 30 election date, independent candidates have upped their campaign drive, motivated to improve the plight of the Zimbabwean people.
NewsDay reporter, Tinotenda Munyukwi (ND), caught up with Debbie Peters (DP), a qualified pharmacist and entrepreneur who has thrown her name in the hat for Harare’s Ward 7 council seat.
ND: Why did you decide to stand as a candidate for ward 7 in the coming election?
DP: People who have left Zimbabwe and lived in the Diaspora have the hardest time dealing with the state of the cities because they left when things were good and came back to deal with the shock of the cities being ruined. Although I used to visit home every year when I was in the United States and more often when I worked closer in South Africa and Nigeria, I resided away from Harare for almost 16 years. It was a bit of a culture shock to come back in 2014 and find the city in such a state of disrepair. There were power cuts, water shortages and potholes all over the streets … I am a seasoned business executive who has run many projects and looking around me I thought I could do better than what the Harare City Council was doing. I had no idea who our councillor was, after speaking to my neighbours who have been here throughout, they told me that they had not seen a candidate for council come to campaign in the area since the 1990s.
ND: What are some of the things that you can promise and deliver in your ward?
DP: Ward 7 includes Gunhill, Alexandra Park, Avondale, Strathaven, Belgravia, Kensington, State House and Tongogara Barracks. When I decided to run for councillor I immediately set up WhatsApp groups where residents in ward 7 could contact me at any given time with their questions and suggestions. That improved communication and the residents had not seen the councillor in 14 weeks, never mind being able to call him any time like they do with me. I also got contact numbers for all the key city staff members like the lady who handles garbage collection in case there are delays. I got in touch with the team that handles road repairs and had a meeting with the head of the group to understand what is holding up the repairs of the roads. Apparently there is a shortage of tar, so I went to T & C to find out about sourcing hot tar from the private sector. Then I called the CEO of Lafarge to request a donation of tar for at least one major road in the area. All of this will take time to start actual road repairs.
I tackled complaints about some unapproved developments coming up in the ward. Some residents living in a small street in Avondale had a noisy church being built next to their homes without being consulted so I took the matter up with the city planning office who agreed with me that the church development was illegal so their housing inspector will put a stop to it.
I will set up an office then begin to repair the schools, clinics, libraries, playgrounds and parks in the ward. I will make the ward business-friendly, so we can attract new employers and investment.
On the other hand, I will crack down on the big debtors who owe large arrears on rates. City of Harare is supposed to remit back 25% of rates collected to the ward for improvements, but they have not done that. I would like to buy at least one ambulance to handle medical emergencies for residents. Finally I would like to instil a spirit of engagement, civic-mindedness and activism in our residents again so that improving our community will be a team effort.
ND : How would you rate the performance of the councillors who assumed office after the 2013 elections?
DP: The city council has never attracted the best candidates. In fact, when educated people announce that they are running for council, they are advised to go for Parliament instead, but in my opinion Local Government is more important because it affects the day -to-day running of our neighbourhoods.
ND: Do you think as an independent candidate you have what it takes to pull through in the election?
DP: This year’s election has seen a large number of independents running for seats. People are sick of politics and especially at council level, the city needs to make the best decisions and not make partisan choices. The outgoing mayor of Harare is frustrated because he never got to implement his projects because of partisan divides and infighting within his own party. The biggest challenge that independent candidates face is that of resources but I am a skilled social media influencer and marketing expert. My message has resonated with many people and I have volunteers offering me assistance with my campaign from all angles.