By Bulawayo Correspondent
DUE to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Bulawayo City council will this year conduct its 2021 budget consultation meetings via WhatsApp although there are concerns high costs on data would likely impact the process negatively.
Local authorities are required by law to conduct consultative meetings with residents before the formulation of annual budgets.
However, due to the pandemic, gatherings of more than 50 people are prohibited as a means to curb the spread of the virus.
“The cost of data will place the online budget consultation outside the reach of what ordinary citizens can afford,” said Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association (BPRA) Coordinator Emmanuel Ndlovu in an interview with NewZimbabwe.com
However, in light of the Covid-19 imposed restrictions, some precautions must be adhered to. On top of the online meetings, BCC should do a few physical meetings.”
Ndlovu said residents’ groups were currently mobilising more residents to take part in the consultation meetings.
The chairperson of the Mahlabezulu Residents Association, Gilbert Ndlovu said a lot of elderly people and pensioners were going to be excluded from the consultation process because most of them were not on WhatsApp.
“Most residents in Tshabalala and Sizinda are widows and pensioners who are not on social media. These people are vulnerable, and our fear is that they might end up being left out in the process if their contributions are not taken on board,” said Ndlovu.
He urged council to conduct special consultative meetings for vulnerable groups such as the elderly and people living with disability.
A Magwegwe resident, Allan Choto hailed the initiative saying it will protect residents from the Covid-19 pandemic.
“This initiative by the local authority is quite welcome in the light of Covid-19.
“On the issue of data, I think the local authority should avail free Wifi at central places in each suburb so that residents can use,” said Choto.