Local authorities have been challenged to uphold their obligation of being the providers of housing in urban areas instead of playing second fiddle in the building of accommodation for urban dwellers.

Speaking at a conference held in Harare with provincial administrators, district administrators and rural district council chief executive officers this Friday, Local Government, Rural Development and National Housing Minister Cde Saviour Kasukuwere said local authorities have become comfortable parcelling out land to private developers who are now at the forefront of house construction for urban dwellers yet it is local authorities’ mandate to take the lead.

Minister Kasukuwere noted that local authorities’ surrendering of part of their role in delivering housing is among the major causes of the emergence of land barons who are shortchanging home-seekers.

The Minister read the riot act to local authorities and further highlighted those found guilty of illegally establishing unsanctioned settlements risk spending 5 to 10 years behind bars.

Cde Kasukuwere said local authorities should act without fear or favour in dealing with the illegal land dealers irrespective of their standing in society.

Minister Kasukuwere said local authorities should now act with speed in restoring order in towns and cities following the President’s statement at the youth assembly where he expressed dismay at the state of lawlessness in the City of Harare and others.

He said government is giving the local authorities tools to do their job and he will not hesitate to replace those found sleeping on duty to ensure that normalcy and orderliness is restored in the cities and towns once more.

Cde Kasukuwere urged the officials to ensure quality service for the people and ensure that they do not pay themselves hefty salaries at the expense of the rate payers.

The minister implored them to help communities where basic necessities are required in the rural areas through provision of boreholes and rendering assistance should disasters like the one that left villagers without a roof over their heads Insiza and at Nyadire Teachers College where classroom roofs were blown off.

Equally topical during the meeting was the need to review small towns and business centres that have outgrown their little status and need to be uplifted.

These include Chivhu, Umguza, Murewa, and others.

The local authorities were also urged to embrace plastic money and the ease of doing business in their operations.

The Minister noted that the rural district authorities have a role to play in helping the Ministry of Environment in fighting veldt fires and in facilitating the current registration exercise by the Ministry of Home Affairs.

Most local authorities have been under the spotlight in recent years for the wrong reasons and it is believed they have the capacity to be more efficient if they implement government policies whole heartedly to improve people’s lives