By Chris Musekiwa
The Urban Councils Association of Zimbabwe (UCAZ) is one of the oldest local government associations in Africa. It started as a loose forum of municipalities in 1923, when councils used to meet and discuss matters of common concern. In 1940 the forum adopted a constitution which established the Local Government Association of Southern Rhodesia (LGASR) with a permanent secretariat.
The Association has gone through many name changes from LGASR, Local Government Association of Rhodesia, Local Government Association of Southern Rhodesia, Local Government Association of Zimbabwe-Rhodesia to the present Urban Councils Association of Zimbabwe. UCAZ is a voluntary association of 32 urban local authorities, enjoying a 100% membership of all urban councils in Zimbabwe.
The UCAZ constitution was last amended in December 2020 in order to reflect the new challenges brought about by government`s devolution and decentralisation agenda as well as other developments in the local government sector.
This year is a huge milestone in the history of UCAZ as it is its 100-year anniversary. The Association is lining up activities which will take place from January to November 2023 to commemorate the centenary. These include radio talk shows, radio, television and newspaper adverts, articles in the papers as well as sporting events such as a marathon, golf tournaments and the Local Government Investment Conference just to mention a few.
The Secretary General of UCAZ, Mr Livison Mutekede is upbeat about the UCAZ centenary year, which he says requires the local government fraternity to reflect on the Association’s achievements.
“Chief among the achievements is the inclusion of a local government chapter (Chapter 14) in the constitution of Zimbabwe,” he said. Mr Mutekede said that other achievements, made through lobbying and advocacy, included securing a minimum of 5% annual budgetary allocation for local government from the national treasury, and a 30% quarter for women at the local government level,” said the Secretary General.
“Improved working relations with the Ministry of Local Government and Public Works, is another achievement whose importance cannot be overemphasised,” he said.
UCAZ also assisted in the capacity building and mentoring of some local government associations in the region during their formative years, namely the Local Government Association of Kenya and the Botswana Local Government Association. Furthermore, UCAZ also worked with the National Association of Local Authorities of Ghana and the Gambia Association of Local Authorities the European Union-funded programme on Strengthening Transnational Partnerships and Networks for Enhancing Participatory Local Governance.
“UCAZ has remained apolitical. This means that the Association does not lean towards any political party. This has been UCAZ’s enduring legacy as an Association”, said the Secretary General.
The Secretary General said UCAZ welcomes all organisations who wish to partner with the Association in making the centenary anniversary a memorable one.
UCAZ President Clr Abel Matsika said that reaching 100 years as the voice of urban local governments promoting good local governance and never closing shop is not a mean achievement.
“It shows the resilience that we have as local authorities under the guidance of UCAZ and, of course also under our parent ministry of Local Government. UCAZ has been able to wither economic and social storms over the years and surviving to soldier on, representing the interests of urban local authorities, providing services to members such as building their capacity to better serve their residents, lobbying and advocacy on matters that affect service delivery,” said Clr Matsika.
“Looking into the future, our Association is playing an integral role in ensuring that the nation achieves Vision 2030,” said the UCAZ President.