HARARE – IS the window dressing about to start?
By all accounts it looks like a referendum on the draft constitution is only weeks away and an election will follow soon after.
In 2008, we all literally voted for bread and butter — for a government that could put food on our tables and fill our supermarket shelves.
In 2013, we will still be voting for bread and butter but this time, it will be the actual food but the basic down-to-earth issues that plague our daily lives: water, electricity, garbage, litter and roads.
Who can forget the years when all the local municipal councils were run by Zanu PF?
You always knew when a government VIP was coming to town because suddenly pot holes would be filled, grass slashed and litter picked up.
As elections approached, street lights were fixed and switched on, road repairs went into high gear and the dustbin trucks went from monthly to weekly garbage collections.
All the things that we pay for every month suddenly started being done when officials wanted our votes.
So what has changed? It is not going unnoticed that four years into MDC run municipalities, ordinary citizens have resorted to doing the work that local authorities are being paid to do.
Suburb after suburb, town after town, churches and community groups are trying to get to grips with the rubbish, blocked storm drains and dumped litter which is suffocating their neighbourhoods.
Every fortnight calls go out advertising a voluntary ‘‘clean up’’ campaign.
Local residents don old clothes, protective gloves and carry spikes and shovels.
Bags, sacks and pick-up trucks are filled in their hundreds as local residents try and rid their communities of the litter that municipal authorities are paid to clear up but fail to do so.
From one season to another and one year to the next, many suburbs and ‘‘out of sight’’ roads are not maintained.
In my neighbourhood, there has not been a single municipal vehicle, grader or even a man with a shovel for the last six years.
Dirty roads are crisscrossed with deep gullies and rocky outcrops.
Tarred roads are littered with deep and treacherous potholes; conditions are perilous for drivers and pedestrians.
In other areas, residents are lucky if municipal road authorities dump a pile of soil on the side of a pot-holed road.
They are even luckier if the municipality sends a team of workers to shovel the soil into the holes but mostly these days people have no option but to take it upon themselves and do the job for the municipalities.
As Zanu PF and the MDC embark on primary elections this time around, they must select candidates who want to serve us and not those who want to enrich themselves.
They must select candidates who live in their constituencies all the time and not just at election time.
Candidates who will be proud to say they are the MP, mayor or councillor of a certain area and be proud to show visitors around their areas of responsibility.
Now is the time for us to be offered candidates not because they were brave enough to stand against Zanu PF but because they want to serve their country and improve the lives of ordinary people and the communities they live in.
Right now most people are looking at their present leaders, from the highest office to the lowest, and asking themselves: why on earth should we vote you back into office?
It is going to take a lot more than the window dressing of a few bags of mealie-meal or computers in schools to get our votes again. – Cathy Buckle