By Innocent Ruwende
Local authorities require technocrats to serve as mayors and the current scenario where mayors and chairpersons only come from elected leaders is short-changing ratepayers as councillors may lack skills required for the job, Harare Mayor Councillor Bernard Manyenyeni has said.
In an interview, Clr Manyenyeni, who is not seeking re-election when his term lapses this year, said the dominant party in elections should be allowed to choose the best candidate for the coveted position of mayor or chairperson of a local authority.
Currently, councils can only choose candidates for the mayoral office from elected councillors.
“We have had two experiences, the current experience and the previous experience. The previous experience is what I would call the Much Masunda (Former Harare Mayor Muchadeyi Masunda) experience where the dominant party had the latitude to find the most capable person to be mayor of the City of Harare,” he said.
“The current scenario is where the mayors and chairpersons are coming from only from elected councillors. I think this aspect should be relaxed so that the communities through their parties are afforded the chance to get the best or the most deserving person from outside the elected councillors.”
Clr Manyenyeni said the mayoral office is difficult and requires a lot of skills, some of which might be lacking in those elected.
He said opening up of the post to non-elected people will be good for Local Government as it allows people who may not prefer to contest in elections to avail themselves to serve councils as unelected mayors.
“I think we are lying to ourselves when we say mayors are part time particularly in the bigger cities. In the bigger cities I would like to assume with full knowledge of my 54 months in council that at least Harare, Bulawayo and possibly one or two others the mayors are busier than Members of Parliament for instance.”
“Even without comparing them to MPs, the demands of council proper and civic combined make those jobs pretty much full time. Mayors do not know of a weekend they do not know of a Sunday. They can be called at any day, any hour. So it is certainly full time even if it is not executive.”
Clr Manyenyeni has over the years challenged residents and other stakeholders to lobby Government to ensure his successor is given executive powers if the city is to attain its ambitious plan to attain world class status by 2025.
In 2015, Clr Manyenyeni came under fire from his fellow councillors after saying that the majority of councillors in Harare lack essential skills and there is need for political parties to forward individuals with reasonable educational qualifications to ensure the smooth running of council.