By Special Correspondent GWERU, Zimbabwe A high-powered delegation led by the Executive Mayor of Gweru in Zimbabwe, Cecil Zvidzai, is expected to arrive in the country over the weekend to conduct a peer review study in good governance at the Tsumeb Municipality. The visit follows a similar exercise conducted by a delegation from the Tsumeb Council some two weeks ago. The review study places the two local authorities in a specific context of the historical, social, geographical and economic characteristics of a country and city. Zvidzai told New Era that age distribution and the socio-economic status of the population, as well as the income/employment opportunities, are important elements in appraising good governance and democracy on all levels. He noted that the study is based on five indicators including participation, equity, efficiency and effectiveness, accountability and transparency, as well as security and social welfare. The review programme will cross-check whether a council consults its stakeholders on important issues, whether it uses appropriate methods and takes into account the public’s contributions when making decisions, and/or whether the council has a strong and sustainable source of revenue, the rate of utilization of such resources and whether government transfers are predictable. “To us this type of exercise is valuable to judge our performance based on independent scrutiny in order to create room for improvement in areas of poor service delivery. All stakeholders should embrace this initiative with dedication and commitment so that we could collectively arrive at the application of best practices,” said Zvidzai. The study also looks at efforts made by the respective councils to ensure that residents are aware of the powers and responsibilities of local government and also to probe what measures are taken to increase representation for disadvantaged groups such as women, the disabled, youth or minorities in council. The Coordinator of the Urban Councils Association of Local Authorities in Zimbabwe, Francis Nduri, explained that the objective of the framework is to give outsiders such as peer reviewers a tool by which to conduct independent and impartial evaluations of governance at local level. This would be done by identifying the principal strengths and weaknesses of good governance and democratic life, as well as identifying ways to further consolidate strengths and rectify weaknesses. Nduri added: “The framework is being used as a planning and monitoring tool by local authorities to provide a practical tool to politicians, municipal officials, administrators, partners and civic leaders as they conduct self-evaluations of their governance systems. It should also stimulate further thinking on the ways to define and describe the best ways to structure and practise good local governance and democracy. Tsumeb Municipality’s Chief Executive Officer, Archie Benjamin, told New Era that the ultimate goal of the study is for local authorities to have information upon which they can design strategic objectives and future courses of action to improve local governance and democracy based on the information gathered and analysed. “This process should not be exploited to focus on the negative elements alone, as we are creating an opportunity for all urban stakeholders to be engaged and involved in decision-making on issues of common concern.” He said the exercise includes promoting local elections and encouraging higher levels of voter turnout and participation on the contrary. According to him, statistics on most local authority elections have shown a low voter turnout throughout the SADC region. “Elections are a unique element of the governance process because they are about the secret ballot and, in this way, differ from community meetings where opinions are openly expressed. Participation entails public engagement in an ongoing process of policy-formulation, decision-making, implementation and evaluation. It creates opportunities for the public to influence the policy decisions of a local authority because it is about choice, and is essentially a political process,” stated Benjamin. Benjamin added that the review programme with Gweru will be extended with the signing of an agreement of intent for a permanent twinning link between the two local authorities next Tuesday. According to him, the twinning will enable the peoples from the two cities to exchange information technology, education and culture amongst many other areas of cooperation. The formal agreement will be signed during November at the Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, when all peer reviewers are expected to table their findings on the performance of all targeted cities. The City of Windhoek is also linked to a peer review partnership with the town of Kadoma in Zimbabwe.