2011 | 26 | 59-72
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Civic Associations And Urban Governance In Harare, Zimbabwe: A Special Focus On The Post -2008 Era

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The paper aims at describing and explaining the activities of civil society organisations in the affairs of Harare, the capital city of Zimbabwe with respect to issues of public participation and governance in the post crises era in the country. The year 2008 was a watershed period in the history of Zimbabwe. It was the peak of Zimbabwe’s economic, social and political crises. February 2009 saw the coming into power of a Government of National Unity (GNU) whose lifespan was however pegged at two years after which there will be national elections again. In this space of time there has been much activity by civic associations in the country pressing demands for local government reform. Critical facets of the reforms and activism have been focused specifically on expenditure by local government units with the underlining being put on budget formulation and implementation. From the civic society point of view there are still a lot of gray areas needing attention and redress with respect to the respect of popular participation, strengthening the voice of the poor and raising awareness regarding service delivery emanating from the budgets. This paper puts in focus the work of Combined Harare Residents’ Association and other sister organisations advocating for good urban governance in Zimbabwe. The period of focus is the post-2008 era which saw the economic transformation enabled by the dollarization of the economy after more than a decade of galloping inflation which saw service delivery dying down in Harare, as well as the wider economy at large. Despite, change in the government system of Harare with the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) elected officials taking over the reins, not much has changed regarding the management of the system. General public opinion argues that that this is due to the conservativism expressed by the appointed officials. As a result, a palpable rift exist between the appointed and the elected officials of which the former has been accused of following the diktats of ZANU PF, the former ruling party of the country. Yet, they have argued that they have only been working on the spirit of the paper- the laid down canons and statutes in place including the Urban Councils Act and the Regional, Town and Country Planning Act. Critics to these statutes have mentioned rigidity and antiquity as the primary challenges with these canons. In this fragile position’ civic organisations have taken advantage and pushed their agenda for reform and active participation of the citizens in matters affecting the daily and not on partisan lines. Civil society in Zimbabwe and Harare, in particular, has thus emerged as a reckoning force in the period of GNU office. The paper capitalises on institutional documents and stories by civic associations in their endeavour to improve the lives of the people.
  • Department of Rural & Urban Planning, University of Zimbabwe, PO Box MP167, Mt Pleasant, Harare Zimbabwe,
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