Residents in Zimbabwe's second largest city, Bulawayo, continue to seek ways to address the city's problems, which range from marginalization by central government to service delivery grievances with for example refuse collection and erratic water supplies. One group has gone online to stimulate conversations between residents on these issues.
The Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association (BUPRA) is embracing online platforms such as Facebook to talk about pertinent issues. BUPRA has set up a Facebook page called ‘Uhlelo Lwezakhamizi‘ (Forum for Residents in the local Sindebele language) that has proved quite relevant to present discourses affecting the city and boasts more than 5,100 friends.
On their Facebook page, the residents association describes itself thus:
BPRA is a community driven and membership-based organisation established in 2007 with a view of providing a non-partisan and issue-based platform for effective residents and stakeholder participation in local governance. It is a manifestation of the residents’ desire to have a vibrant, non partisan residents platform through which residents can demand greater inclusion in local decision-making and increase interaction between local government officials, councillors and the residents.
Discussing Gukurahundi massacres
Uhlelo Lwezakhamizi recently invited residents to join in the conversation about the 1980s Gukurahundi massacres, which senior government officials insist are a closed chapter:
In the Newsday today, Patrick Chinamasa is cited saying that Gukurahundi is water under the bridge and argues that nobody should be blamed for the massacres. What are your thoughts on this? And whats your take on the fact that the Human Rights Commission may only deal with human rights issues that occurred from 2009?
Dumi Moyo responded:
Those that violated us say its water under the bridge we say ” we will fight for the perpetrators to be brought before the world criminal court even if they are 200 years old.”
On the city's troublesome water politics, Uhlelo LweZakhamizi posed a question:
The Bulawayo City Council (BCC) is mulling arresting and prosecuting (through the police of course) residents who exceed their daily water limit. This is reportedly meant as a water conservation method. Do you think this is justified? What are your thoughts?
Freeman Masuku answered:
First they should arrest whoever took a heinous loan to buy luxury vehicles , 2. All the hoodlums who have no idea how to plan the city's water resources progressively .3. Those who have failed to stand up to Chombo and his masters who continuosly delay water programmes.
Thoughts on civil servant salaries
The organization asked residents their thoughts on the issue of civil servants’ salaries:
In terms of the mid term fiscal policy statement given by Minister Biti yesterday, civil servants will not be getting salary increments because of poor revenue performance caused by among other things shortfalls on diamond dividends. There is thus a possibility of a potentially crippling strike by civil servants. Do you think the government is serious about the issue of civil servants’ salaries? And do u think civil servants would e justified to go on strike?
Brilliant B. Ncube said:
‘Gvt’ to control well calculated and deliberate leakages in diamonds collection if that is happening according to some sections of the media.The job action is justified if related to lack of transparance/accountability in diamonds collection.
Linda Nkosilathi wrote [nde]:
We people mustn't trust ama politicians, they are great liars. Bonke bafuna ukudla kuphela and 4get abantu ababafakayo. We must learn 2 put abantu esibathembayo not bcoz they belong 2 a particular party. Libheke manje oBITI labo they are now big fish.
Police brutality & media harassment
Uhlelo Lwezakhamizi invited residents to discuss police brutality:
There have been allegations of police officers attacking defaulting Kombis’ [mini buses] with baton sticks and stones, with windows being smashed etc. What's your take on this? Is it reasonable for the police to behave in such a manner? What do you think this says about Zimbabwe?
With regard to media harassment in Zimbabwe, Uhlelo Lwezakhamizi asked:
Minister Webster Shamu says he is disappointed by the performance of local media, and he uses the Daily News as an example of a newspaper tht is performing badly. What do you make of this? Does Webster Shamu have the moral authority to criticise media performance in Zimbabwe? And in your view which are the worst newspapers in Zimbabwe?
Ndabayempi Mlotshwa responded:
Hogwash!!zim media has gone to the dogs.private and the public media has failed the nation as they are singing for their super.shamu is expressing his political clout nothing else.
Njabulo T Mzilethi criticized state owned media:
of the worst newspapers are all state run full stop
Busi Ndlovu KaBhebhe wrote:
May he [Information Minister Shamu] first give us an example of a great performing media house so we can compare. As far as I am concerned Zimbabwe has no great model of good media house.
Zimbabwe has about 1,445,717 Internet users as of December 31, 2011, which is 12% of the total population. Research conducted by Zimbabwe All Media Products and Services Survey shows that by the end of 2011, there were 876,265 Facebook users in the country.