The Gweru City Council has been forced to reconsider holding its 2022 budget public consultative meetings virtually after residents complained that it was not viable.
A consultative meeting schedule released by the city council this week showed that some meetings would be held via Zoom, while some would be held physically with the number of attendees capped at 100.
Responding to questions from residents on a WhatsApp group, Gweru Deputy Mayor Cleopas Shiri said the council had reconsidered hosting budget consultation meetings on Zoom.
“The pendulum has changed. You will be informed of new consultation dates,” he said.
Residents had rejected the virtual 2022 budget stakeholder consultative meetings, saying they could not afford internet costs.
Gweru Residents and Ratepayers Association (GRRA) Executive Director Cornelia Selipiwe told 98.4FM News that residents wanted physical budget consultative meetings and were against participating virtually.
He said: “The assumption when you do Zoom meeting is that everyone has a smartphone and that data everyone has data, which is not feasible. The economy doesn`t allow, as you realise that recently data costs went up and that on its own will tell you that residents cannot afford to budget consultative meetings on Zoom.”
Speaking during a social accountability meeting hosted by GRRA on Tuesday, city council Finance Committee chairperson Martin Chivhoko said the decision to host some meetings virtually had been taken to reduce the spread of COVID 19.
“Why we opted for Zoom meeting is because of COVID 19. Imagine if we assemble say 100 people then later another 100 of the following day in the same place, there is a risk of spreading COVID 19,” Chivhoko said.
According to a council official, the local authority was acting in line with a ‘circular’ from the government that prohibited gatherings to prevent a spread of Coronavirus.
Gweru city council started the 2022 budget public consultative meetings on Tuesday afternoon, starting with residents associations and ward development committees.
The local authority has proposed a ‘largely standstill budget’ based that sees a 30 percent increase in charges and tariffs from the 2018 budget. The city council has opened the inspection and consultation process on the proposed budget.