Professor Innocent Chirisa, an urban planner of note from the University of Zimbabwe has said citizen engagement is an important ingredient for improved service delivery in local authorities.
He was speaking at a workshop organised by the Harare Residents Trust that saw stakeholders drawn from local authorities, the Parliament and residents converging to discuss ways of finding solutions to problems bedevilling the City of Harare and other municipalities countrywide.
Professor Chirisa is also the Dean of the Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences Department of Demography Settlement and Development at the University of Zimbabwe.
He encouraged councillors and Parliamentarians to engage the residents in dialogue so as to come up with solutions that address the problems faced by the citizens in their day-to-day lives.
“Policy-making is about the future. It is not about applying objective evidence to solve problems that are “out there” waiting for solutions. It is about constructing these problems through negotiation and deliberation, and using judgements to “muddle through”—that is, to make context-sensitive choices in the face of persistent uncertainty and competing values.
“Any consideration of citizen engagement in policymaking and the design of public services is the recognition that the citizens in a democracy have both rights and duties,” Professor Chirisa said.
He said engaged citizens gain skills and contacts that help them succeed in other aspects of their lives. Such citizens develop norms of trust and collaboration that enable them to contribute to their local economy. Thus, engaged citizens push to achieve effective legislation and effective performance from the government.
Mr. Precious Shumba, the HRT Executive Director encouraged city fathers to be on the ground in the suburbs to assess service delivery at all times.
“Our councillors and Parliamentarians should consult people on what needs to be done to improve service delivery. We need a scenario whereby residents are consulted on the best ways of improving service delivery instead of a top-bottom approach where the leadership imposes its will on the people,” Mr. Shumba said.
Reverend Mirriam Chikukwa the Chairperson of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Local Government said engagement is a very good initiative that fosters development.
“Engagement enlightens people on their different roles citizens and the politicians as well as professionals. It is my recommendation that the same engagement is done between ministers, legislators, and professionals.
This is a good engagement because it is apolitical. Everyone is participating without any intimidation. It is my personal opinion that we have this type of workshops in residential wards. The presenter and the convener did their job fairly without taking sides,” Honourable Chikukwa said.