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‘Devolution to drive smart city concept’.

Government has allocated $43 billion under devolution for next year to local authorities towards the upgrading of infrastructure to meet the ongoing development agenda of smart cities, and no city or town should lag behind as the country moves to achieve an upper middle income economy by 2030, President Mnangagwa said yesterday.

The President, who was officially opening a new-look Kudzanai Long Distance Bus Terminus in Gweru, said devolution funds were enough for local authorities to modernise and embrace the smart city concept, with the Government taking over the development of major national projects such as roads and other infrastructure.

A smart city uses information and communication technology (ICT) to improve operational efficiency, share information with the public and provide a better quality of government service and citizen welfare.

The main goal of a smart city is to optimise city functions and promote economic growth, while also improving the quality of life for citizens by using smart technologies and data analysis.

The new-look long distance bus terminus, which is only on phase one, was refurbished to meet modern standards by a private contractor, Bentach Private Limited, in partnership with Gweru City Council to the tune of US$1,6 million.

The terminus, which houses modern parking bays for both local and cross border buses, over 800 vending bays and around 300 flea market stalls, uses smart card paying and taping system.

President Mnangagwa commended Gweru City Council for coming up with a modern terminus, which he said should be a model to be emulated by other local authorities.

“This is the future of embracing the smart city concept and well done to Gweru City Council. They took heed to my administration’s resolution instructing all local authorities to take advantage of the Covid-19 induced lockdown to decongest, renovate and refurbish market places throughout the country.

“Modern and relevant infrastructure is an essential requirement for an increased production, productivity and economic competitiveness,” said the President.

He said Government had doubled the devolution allocation for local authorities from last year’s $19 billion to $43 billion next year to push the development  agenda.

“My administration has availed devolution funds and the allocation of these devolution funds has doubled from this year. This year, the allocated devolution funds were $19 billion and it has now doubled to $43 billion for next year.

“In utilising these resources, local authorities are urged to focus on transport infrastructure, education, health, electricity and social amenities as well as water and sanitation,” said President Mnangagwa.

Local authorities, he added, should ensure timely use of the funds without giving lame excuses for non-performance.

“I exhort local authorities to make deliberate efforts to develop their localities. The devolution funds are here to stay and local authorities must ensure prudent, effective and timely use of these funds.

“There is no excuse for non-performance; we have given some authorities money for this year and they still have the money. Those who don’t use money, we take it back to the Treasury,” he said.

The President said with by-elections scheduled for March next year, the electorate should vote councillors and Members of Parliament with a vision to develop their areas.

He said local authorities, most of them who were run by the opposition MDC, have persistently failed to provide decent services and urged the electorate to vote wisely.

“My Government remains concerned with those local authorities who have persistently failed in their mandate to deliver quality and basic services and social amenities. I thus urge our people to ride on the 2022 by-elections and 2023 harmonised elections to vote in councillors and Members of Parliament with integrity and the people at heart in delivering a better quality of life,” he said.

His administration, said the President, was determined to improve the quality of life for all Zimbabweans without leaving any one behind.

In pursuit of transforming lives, the Second Republic was identifying resources in every province and was developing factories in rural areas, said President Mnangagwa.

He added that Zimbabwe is for Zimbabweans and everyone has a part to play as the country moves towards an upper middle class economy.

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