There is a general concern at the low literacy levels among Councillors with various stakeholders calling on the government to insist on minimum educational qualifications for aspiring and elected councillors to improve their competence in executing their duties.
The Urban Councils Act which governs the mandate and conduct of Councillors is silent on educational qualifications.
Speaking during a public finance management reform Indaba organised by the Zim Coalition on Debt and Development (ZIMCODD) recently, Samukeliqwa Dube from Umzingwane Rural District Council said councillors with a certain level of education would make them able to comprehend budget issues.
The Indaba ran under the theme “Influencing the legislative and institutional reform agenda for public finance management in Zimbabwe.”
“The issue of concern is that if we have councillors without any educational qualifications they won’t understand the processes of budget and how to be accountable and transparent. We need people who understand what they are doing and why they are doing it,” said Dube.
An official representing ZIMCODD, Florence Ndlovu said with devolution on the horizon there was a need for councillors to be equipped on how to effectively manage resources and funds.
“Devolution is approaching and the question is, are our councillors prepared? Are our councillors ready to monitor resources when we are devolved?
“Political parties have to start capacity building for their candidates so that when they get to these positions they are able to know what a budget is. They should not wait for the Council to teach them,” said Ndlovu.
“Resources will also be given according to competence. Do our councillors have proper CVs in terms of public finance management.”
Another participant said councillors chosen should be locals so they do not misuse funds.
“We need to go back to the previous system where we chose councillors from people who owned houses in those areas. If they are tenants, how will they be accountable for misuse of funds because the person will go back where they came from.
“At least if the councillor is a landlord we can go and sell their house,” he said.
Nhlanhla Mlilo from National Association of non-Governmental Organisations (NANGO) however differed saying educational qualification does not qualify someone to be efficient.
“Joseph Chinotimba, compared with most Members of Parliament has made contributions that are better than those of educated MPs.
“Development is not a concept that you can extract from education. Sometimes you do not need to go to school to appreciate devolution,” said Mlilo.