Bulawayo - In the just ended month of January 2017, ZDDT News, as is the norm, chose one Councillor for an exclusive interview.
Cllr Gladys Masuku (GM), Ward 10, who was coming out of her feed-back meeting with Entumbane residents, spoke to ZDDT’s news correspondent, Mandla Tshuma (MT), on her experiences as a community leader as well as the value and significance of responsible leadership and among other related factors.
MT: To begin with, Cllr Masuku, you are coming out of a fee-back meeting with residents from your ward. Tell me, as a community leader, how important are such meetings?
GM: From my point of view I see such meetings as very, very important because being a councillor means you are there for the people. Therefore, I am expected to hear their concerns and needs. Whatever I am able to answer, I immediately do it. However, what requires council officials, I take it to the Council. If I get answers from the City Council, I call for another meeting. I do so in order to communicate to them the new developments in the city while I respond to issues they would have raised in the previous meetings. That is how the system works. Residents present their needs to me and I take them to the Council and then come back to them with answers and new developments if there are any.
MT. That sounds interesting Cllr Masuku. So how often do you hold these meetings withn residents here in Entumbane?
GM: I wouldn’t want to lie to you and say each and every month. It is just once in a while not each and every month because I might end up lying to residents.
MT: Cllr Masuku, there is this issue of residents littering the city centre at a time when residential areas are relatively clean as garbage is now being collected every week. What are you doing as councillors about this issue, remembering Bulawayo used to be Southern Africa’s cleanest city.
GM: You have just reminded me of something which I should have said in that meeting. I remember during our Council Committee meeting, I have been a member of the Health, Housing and Education Committee, and I raised that point that we, as councillors, have to educate residents because the people who litter the CBD are not necessarily those who live there. Most of them are coming from us here in the wards. We are the ones who are supposed to educate them not to do so although today I forgot to address it in the meeting.
We should actually be telling them that the same way we keep our residential areas clean should be maintained when we get into the CBD. Next time I will certainly teach them that.
MT: But what happened to the heavy fines which the Council used to impose on all those who littered the city?
GM: If you have been listening to me address the residents, I used to tell sweepers that once they picked up a piece of paper with an address where litter had been dumped, they should take it to the Cleansing Department or even to me. They picked, picked and picked and submitted but there was no action that was taken. I then said you EMA (Environment Management Agency), who once publicised the dirtiness of my ward in the newspapers, can you arrest people. I even made a report to the Council to the effect that I had engaged EMA and some councillors are even encouraged to do the same. EMA charges are not that much though. Entumbane is now the cleanest suburb in Bulawayo because of that.
MT: There is also this issue of children without birth certificates in Bulawayo. How are you dealing with it in your ward if you also have such a problem?
GM: During my first days people used to come in their numbers and by then I had not yet established links with relevant organisations. In my case there was no handover takeover exercise with the former councillor of the area as, as you know politics, sometimes is problematic.
MT: Who did you succeed by the way?
GM: It was Prince Dube. So I was denied that hand-over, take over kind of opportunity, because of politics which is dirty. Going back to your question, I used to write letters for people to take to the places where birth certificates are issued and at times I would say here I am just trying and I would even ask God to intervene. However, it actually worked because people would come back to say, ‘Thank you councillor; you have really helped us because we have been issued with birth certificates.’ I then later discovered there was this organisation which also assists on this matter of birth certificates. People now come to me once in a while because most of them have been helped.
MT: Tell me, Cllr Masuku, how has your interaction with ZDDT impacted your life as a community leader?
GM: For me as an individual, I think, as Bulawayo councillors, we should continue working hand in hand with ZDDT because this organisation has assisted us in a lot of things. For example, when we go to their Zone Meetings we learn a lot of things from one another as councillors. As we interact there, I can pick one or two things that I have not been doing in my ward from fellow councillors and straightway go and implement it in my ward. That helps us a lot, and I think it is one thing that has also contributed to Bulawayo becoming the best run city in the country.
MT: Out of the 29 councillors that we have here in Bulawayo, there are just a few females. Being one of such councillors, what are some of the challenges faced by female councillors and how are you addressing them?
GM: I wouldn’t say there are challenges as such because for me everything I tackle it head on. I have sometimes put myself in some places where some people think it is actually impossible. I have even written some letters for people to go and be treated at a government hospital and they have actually been treated. I even tell them that here it is trial and error. To help people get electricity reconnection, I have written letters to ZESA which does not fall under local government. Mind you, it is a challenge when you have been approached by someone seeking for your help to just turn them away like that. However, as I help them, I remind them that we are now dealing with a central government department which does not fall under the local authority but most of them would come back to me to say it has worked out.
MT: Then the last thing councillor, what would be your word to some women out there who are aspiring for leadership positions but are still afraid?
GM: My word to them would be that there is no task or responsibility which can be said is specifically for men only or women only; no. We are just equals. You will realise that otherwise women leaders are doing better than some men. Taking for instance, here in Entumbane, we have a male legislator but, since he was elected, he has never held a feed-back meeting to just tell us what is happening in Parliament. As for me, I work for the people and I even go beyond my mandate and do some things which are supposed to be done by the MP because I do not accept failure.
MT: Thank you so much Cllr Masuku for your time.
GM: I would also like thank you too, even more.