The LRF managed to bring together two erstwhile adversaries—council and residents to dialogue and find common ground to deal with challenges affecting communities in the City of Gweru.
The LRF conducted meeting to reflect on the challenges and successes related to citizen participation and the need for dialogue between citizens and residents. The meeting was attended by residents and the Gweru Residents and Rate Payers’ Association and council representatives including the mayor himself. The mayor expressed satisfaction with the programme and its impact on both council and residents. He highlighted that engagement and accountability meetings facilitated by the LRF enhanced relationships between duty bearers and rights holders.
As a result of the engagement, council started the process of feedback sessions aimed at providing information to community members on their operations as well as strengthening the relationship between the city council and the residents.
Armed with advocacy and lobbying skills from the LRF’s training workshops, the residents and their respective associations presented their issues in a constructive and non-violent manner embraced by the duty bearers, and consequently significant progress ensued in addressing residents’ problems.
The LRF had engaged Gweru Residents and Ratepayers association to strengthen the capacity of residents to engage and demand accountability from council and other duty bearers.
The chairperson of the residents’ association was happy and satisfied with the support and trainings they received from the LRF and the subsequent skills gained: “Now we know the best way to engage with the council; we appreciate that when we are on good talking terms much can be achieved. Now we know that advocacy is not confrontation, it’s dialogue.”
The mayor lauded the importance of building and enhancing citizen participation, saying council can only survive when it works with the people and if the people are ready to work with council, a better city could be achieved. Further, the mayor praised the residents’ association and the LRF for suggesting solutions and mobilizing people to participate and to pay rates. This indicates that citizen responsibilities are important aspects of local governance and local economic development. “Now we don’t see the resident’s association as external members, but as part of the council,” the mayor said.