Winter load-shedding schedule disappointing

Residents have said they are disappointed that this year’s Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA) winter load-shedding schedule is the worst since load shedding intensified in the last three years. They said they were disheartened by the fact that ZESA officials have the audacity to notify the nation that some residential areas will experience power cuts at least twice a day with some going for between five to ten hours without power supplies. In addition, the parastal has said most residential areas will experience power cuts six days out of seven in a week. Residents said this showed that ZESA was failing in its mandate to provide the country with its power needs. Interestingly, while failing to provide constant electricity supply, ZESA executives and employees alike earn fat salaries. Bulawayo residents last year demonstrated against the parastal expressing displeasure with the poor service provision. The effort was however in vain as ZESA continues to swindle residents, charging them exorbitant bills but failing to provide electricity. In the past month, power cuts have intensified with most areas experiencing power cuts almost every day. Residents have also expressed dismay with the fact that ZESA’s billing system does not cater for the hours lost without power.

Residents denounce chasing of children from school

Residents have denounced the chasing away of children from school saying it is an affront on the right of access to school for every child. Since schools opened on Tuesday 10 May 2011, numerous schools in Bulawayo have been sending children home for unpaid fees. This is contrary to the country’s Education Act that stipulates that no child in the country should be denied access to school for failure to pay fees. This has however been happening because the Ministry of Education lacks the resources necessary to police schools in the country to ensure that school heads do not abuse their power. What has exacerbated the situation is that most parents are either unemployed or earning paltry salaries meaning that they have difficulty paying school fees for their children. This effectively means education has become a privilege for the rich. Similarly, children are being chased away from school for non-payment of teachers’ incentives. In light of the above, Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association (BPRA) is in the process of penning a position paper that it will submit to the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Education and the Ministry of Education Sport, Art and Culture. In the paper, the association will highlight the problems that it sees with what is currently happening in the country’s education sector and offer possible solutions.

Residents bemoan ZBC licences

Bulawayo residents have expressed dismay over Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) Television licences that they are required to pay annually. This comes after ZBC employees, have in the last few weeks, been going around informing residents that they owe the broadcaster US$50 in unpaid licence fees for this year and an additional US$20 in penalties for late payment. What has irked residents most is that most of them no longer tune into ZBC, preferring broadcasts from outside the country that they access through satellite television providers such as Multi Choice. Most Zimbabweans in urban areas have been resorting to satellite television due to poor programming by ZBC. In addition, residents have argued that the television licences are steep taking into account that most people are unemployed while the few that are employed are earning paltry salaries that are below the poverty datum line. Residents also believe that it is unfair for them to financially support ZBC when it is well know that the broadcaster is a state broadcaster as opposed to a public broadcaster and therefore propagandistic in nature. They said there was a need for ZBC to improve its programming, be converted into a public broadcaster and licence fees to be reviewed downwards to cater for residents with low incomes.

BPRA position on examination fees support scheme

Bulawayo Progressive Residents Associations (BPRA) was pleased to learn that the government has set aside US$1 million to assist vulnerable children across the country with examination fees under the Basic Education Assistance Module (BEAM). According to the Director of Social Services in the Ministry of labour and Social Welfare, 15 000 vulnerable children from across the country will benefit from the scheme. For Advanced level students, the scheme will provide examination fees for up to three subjects, while for Ordinary level students, the scheme will provide examination fees for up to six subjects.

While BPRA commends the setting aside of the money for examination fees support for vulnerable children, the association believes that more should be done to ensure accountability in the administration of the scheme. Firstly, there is need for transparency and accountability in terms of distribution of the funds to ensure that all provinces in the country benefit equally from the examination fees support. Secondly there is need for the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare and the Ministry of Education, Sport, Arts and Culture to come up with checks and balances to ensure that there is no corruption in the administration of the money.

BPRA’s concerns stem after a similar scheme last year failed to adequately benefit vulnerable children in Bulawayo and other areas of Matabeleland, with hundreds failing to sit for examinations as a result. The association also has concerns with the failure of the authorities to adequately inform the public on how beneficiaries were picked.

In light of the above, BPRA proposes that:
·         The authorities come up with measures to ensure fairness in the distribution of the money.
·         The Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare and the Ministry of Education, Sport, Arts and Culture compile a list of all beneficiaries of the scheme that includes area of residence to be availed to the media, Civic Society Organisations (CSOs) and members of the public.
·         There be equitable allocation of the money to all the provinces in the country.

Over and above the examination fees support scheme, BPRA is concerned that examination fees in the country are exorbitant and beyond the reach of the majority of Zimbabweans, more than 80 percent of whom are unemployed while those that are employed are earning salaries below the poverty datum line. It is the contention of BPRA that examination fees, which are pegged at $11 for Ordinary Level students and $22 for Advanced Level students,  should be reduced as they are too high and depriving children of their right to education.  

BPRA also believes that the government should revamp the structure of BEAM to ensure that it benefits children who actually need assistance. There is also need for more transparency in the operations of BEAM.

BPRA to hold review meetings on CDFs

Bulawayo Progressive Residents Associations (BPRA) will this weekend (7 and 8 May 2011) be holding constituency meetings to discuss how Members of Parliament (MPs) utilised Constituency Development Funds (CDFs) in their respective areas. MPs and the councillors in their respective areas will be present. The meetings will give residents of Bulawayo an opportunity to question their House of Assembly representatives to ascertain how projects were identified and what kind of interventions were initiated using the funds. More importantly, the  meetings will seek to ascertain how residents were either included or excluded in decision making in terms of identification of projects. In addition, the meetings will establish whether or not the CDFs were actually used (in their entirety) for constituency development. From the meetings considerations for the future will be made to ensure that in future such funds are effectively utilised and residents allowed to participate in the identification of developmental needs and in the formulation of intervention methods to spearhead development.

BPRA is holding these meetings as part of its mandate to promote participatory democracy and create a culture of accountability in the country’s body politic. The association envisions a Bulawayo that is a city of first choice in the country due to improved service delivery, sustainable development and democratic developmental local governance pinned on residents’ participation and awareness of critical socio-political issues affecting the lives of Zimbabweans.

The meetings will be held in wards 5, 13, 24, 25 and 26 on the weekend of 7 and 8 May 2011 as shown in the table below:

Wards 24, 25, 26
Nketa Hall
10am – 1pm
Ward 13
Iminyela Hall
2pm – 4pm
Ward 5
Bulawayo Club
 2pm – 4pm