By Precious Shumba

A ward councillor is one of the most significant actor in the governance and
administration of a local authority, in both rural and urban areas.

The Electoral Act (Chapter
2.13) defines a Councillor as a member of a council.

Thereis confusion and total misunderstanding among the citizenry on what role councillors play in the provision of social services.

This presentation is therefore designed to enlighten ratepayers and residents on the important role that a councillor plays in the local authority in the provision of social services.

The legal requirements for one to be or not be a councillor, the citizens’ expectations from the councillor and the experiences of residents with councillors as well as the legal mandate of the councillor are specifically outlined.

It is argued that a councillor’s role should not be confused with that of a philanthropist who answers people’s financial and material needs.

2. Qualification and disqualification for election as a councillor
2.1.In terms of Section 119 (1) of the Electoral Act, the following qualify a person to be voted for as a ward councillor;
(1) Any person who—
(a) is a citizen of Zimbabwe; and
(b) has attained the age of twenty-one years; and (c) is enrolled on the voters roll for the council area concerned; and
(d) is not disqualified in terms of subsection (2); shall be qualified to be elected as a councillor.

3. Section 119 (2) states that a person is disqualified from contesting and being nominated as a candidate for or from election as a councillor if one is a member of another local authority, a
member of Parliament, adjudged or otherwise declared insolvent or bankrupt and has not been

One may also be disqualified if five years immediately preceding the date of his or her proposed nomination as a candidate he or she has been convicted of contravening section 48 of the Rural District Councils Act [Chapter 29:13], section 107, 108 or 109 of the Urban Councils Act [Chapter 29:15] or an equivalent provision of any Act repealed by the latter Act; or (e) he or she has been convicted of an offence involving dishonesty. These are other provisions that addresses this disqualification.

3.1.According to Section 41 (7) of the Urban Councils Act (Chapter 29.15), a councillor shall cease to be a Councillor if he or she is convicted of an offence and sentenced to imprisonment for a period of six months or more.

This section specifies that once this happen, the councillor shall forthwith cease to exercise his functions or to be entitled to any remuneration as a councillor and, subject to subsection (8), he shall cease to be a councillor at the expiry of thirty days from the date of such sentence.

4. Citizens’ expectation on a Ward Councillor- The Harare Residents’ Trust (HRT) asked residents
to indicate what they expect their councillor to do.

They indicated that their councillor should receive their service delivery concerns, provide them with updates on what he or she is doing on their behalf in the council chambers, and to provide them with handouts whenever they become available, jobs for their children and consistent visibility within the ward area.

Other expectations are listed below;
4.1.Councillor should not be a visitor to the electorate in their respective ward.

Residents expect to see their ward councillor in their community most of the time, especially when the residents want to engage her/him.

4.2.Councillor has to call for feedback meetings to update residents on what he or she has been doing in council chambers.

Updates and feedback should be on the work of council in respect of service provision, incomes and expenditures. The councillors should not wait to be invited to meetings facilitated by residents alone.

4.3. Ensure the provision of adequate potable water, consistent refuse collection and monitor the sewerage bursts in the ward area.
4.4.Articulate the issues affecting the diversity of people in one’s ward.

4.5.Tower lights in the community must be functional and streets and roads must be maintained to ensure minimal potholes.

4.6.The councillor should monitor the services provided at the local clinics.

4.7.Residents want to be consulted before key decisions are made at council, including the recalling of incompetent and corrupt councillors.

4.8.He/ she should push for infrastructural developments in the ward, especially when the
Constituency Development Fund is released.

4.9.The Councillor should fulfill the promises they made during their campaigning before being elected into office. It is unhelpful for a councillor to be known by people but without doing
much to address service delivery concerns of the electorate.

4.10. Getting recommendation letters to help residents when faced with challenges.

4.11. Attend funerals and other community functions where he/she interfaces with the electorate in their social contexts.

4.12. Councillor must articulate the aspirations of the residents on housing, especially now that there is a very high demand for housing by lobbying and advocating for high rise buildings to accommodate more people in a small place.

4.13. Council infrastructure should be maintained and regularly upgraded to reflect current developments. Most of the council infrastructure in communities is dilapidated and

5. Key functions of Ward Councillor
5.1.Representative- The electorate votes into office their councillor. By voting the residents are giving the power of representation to their elected councillor.

The Councillor represents those who voted for him/ her, non-voters, the elderly, the children and those from other political parties who did not vote for him/her during the previous election.

The Councillor is expected to play the representative role. After being elected into office, a Councillor is assigned to one or two committees of the respective local authority. Each committee has terms of references which constitute its mandate to the council.

Committees receive reports, deliberate on them and make recommendations, which have to be tabled in the full
council meeting for resolutions.

Resolutions, when made, are binding on the council and everyone in the council, irrespective of whether one supported the idea or not.

A resolution is the final decision made by a full council on any policy issues.
5.2.Policymaking- Councillors are policymakers. During the campaign period, they are mere candidates representing a political party or themselves as independents.

However, once one is elected into office in terms of the Urban Councils’ Act (Chapter 29.15) and Electoral Act (Chapter 2.13), they become policymakers, with formal powers and legal authority. This means that whatever policies the councillors sitting as a full council make are binding on the

Financial, human and material resources of the council will be allocated to ensure the implementation of the policies made.

Policies are made at Committee and full council levels, with some decisions made in council committee binding on the rest of the council. In theory, policymaking should be initiated by the councillors.

But in real practice, council
bureaucrats or technocrats come up with up policy proposals most of the time, and then table them through the committee chairpersons, thereby becoming a part of the agenda for the committee meetings. When resolutions are made, they are taken up by the Chief Executive Officer, Town Secretary or Town Clerk for implementation by council management through the bureaucracy.

5.3. Oversight- The Councillor plays this role through council committees and the full council.

At their regular meetings the councillors receive progress updates and reports from the council
technocrats assigned to their respective committees on the status of implementation of
council resolutions.

Based on what they receive, the councillors in Committee formulate
their policy recommendations which are then tabled in full council as part of continuous monitoring and evaluation of their work as council.

The Chairperson or the Mayor of the
concerned local authority is the chief policymaker who must continuously exert pressure on his/ her accounting officer for the timely implementation of council decisions and policies.

5.4.Community Development- Most local authorities have made policies to introduce ward retention funds. Ward Development Committees have been established in some wards in order to advance council’s community development agenda.

The councillors have been tasked with facilitating the identification of community development projects in liaison with the Ward Development Committees and the Constituency Development Funds availed through the local Members of Parliament.

The impact of these community development projects remains peripheral with very little progress made to warrant real mention.

6. Experiences of Residents with Councillors- The residents say they have become frustrated with
their councillors. The major reasons for the expressed frustrations emanates from the following

6.1.Residents say they do not see or hear much from their councillors after the elections.

6.2.Councillors have become land barons, selling residential stands and employing their political party activists without letting other residents know of vacancies in council.

6.3.Councillors attending council programmes are largely representing themselves and not the electorate who voted them into office.

6.4.Elected councillors were recalled without the consultation of residents.

This has taught residents not to trust political party voted councillors. There is always the risk of your ward
councillor being recalled without your input.

Only political parties can recall councillors in terms of Section 129 (k) by merely writing to the Ministry of Local Government and Public Works informing them that so and so councillor has ceased to serve their interests. The law does not provide for the consultation of the electorate from the affected ward.

6.5.The residents say very few of their councillors are professional. A majority of the councillors
still pursue their political party agendas while serving as councillors.

This has deprived a significant number of residents who do not wish to be associated with any political party but are citizens with rights to representation by their respective councillors.

6.6.A significant number of councillors are placeholders when it comes to discharging their mandate. They rarely speak on behalf of the residents and they do not contribute to council debates, clearly disadvantaging the electorate.

6.7.Councillor not living among the people who voted him or her into office.

7. Recommendations
7.1.Residents should vote for councillors who meet their set standards, and not everyone who
comes forward to claim leadership.
7.2.In the 2023 elections, residents should be more careful who they vote into office.

Without an amendment to the recall law (Section 129(k)), residents should prefer voting for independent candidates who cannot be recalled. Voting for political party candidates is suicidal and highly risky given the volatile nature of Zimbabwean politics.

7.3.Community candidate selection is the most viable process to identify potential candidates to represent the electorate in different political parties. Political parties may adopt this strategy as a way of involving more residents to participate in the processes to elect their political
party candidates.

7.4.There has to be consensus on what constitute the ideal councillor. Academic and professional qualifications matter to a larger extent in the office of councillor.

Experience and record of community service are equally important considerations which must be
attended to by ratepayers.

7.5.The government should ensure that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) holds by
elections to fill the vacancies left by recall of councillors.

8. Conclusion- The citizens should know the identities, roles and responsibilities of their ward

The expectations of residents in their councillor and the legal roles and
responsibilities of a councillor differ in most cases.

The selection processes of council candidates by political parties has to significantly change in order to enhance the level of experience and competence among the councillors. As long as the recall section of the constitution of Zimbabwe
Amendment (Number 20) Act of 2013 is in place, councillors will always be whipped by their respective political parties to pursue partisan policymaking and representation.

*Precious Shumba is Harare Residents Trust Director