What is UCAZ?
UCAZ is one of the oldest local government associations in Africa. It started as a loose forum of municipalities in 1923 when councils used to meet and discuss matters of common concern. In 1940 the forum adopted a constitution which established the Local Government Association of Southern Rhodesia (LGASR) with a permanent secretariat. The Association has gone through many name changes from LGASR, Local Government Association of Rhodesia, Local Government Association of Zimbabwe-Rhodesia to the Urban Councils Association of Zimbabwe. UCAZ is a voluntary association of 32 urban local authorities, enjoying a 100% membership of all urban councils in Zimbabwe.
The UCAZ constitution was last amended in June 2002 in order to reflect the new challenges brought about by government’s decentralisation policy as well as other changes in the local government sector.
The Association is funded through members’ subscriptions. It also receives assistance from donors and partners in local government.
Subcommittees and Officers
The Association has five subcommittees, namely: Management, Manpower and Legal Services; Finance; Health Services; Housing and Community Services and Technical Services. Seven officers’ fora have been established for Town Clerks, Directors of Finance, Directors of Health, Directors of Housing and Community Services, Town Engineers and Women in Local Government..
Reforming the Association
From the mid 1990s the Association embarked on a restructuring and reorientation exercise which resulted in a major shift from the secretariat’s traditional emphasis on administration to the implementation of programmes which address the concerns of its members. Pursuant to this, the post of Secretary General was established with the first Secretary General being appointed in August 1998.
The Association is now in a position to,
- Lobby government and relevant organisations
- Research into matters of importance to its members, where appropriate, in partnership with other experts at institutions of higher learning
- Scrutinise legislation and current policies in the light of current trends and thinking on local government and make recommendations thereon.
- Study practices in other jurisdictions and make recommendations thereon
- Provide expertise in key areas to members with the co-operation of partners in local government, in areas such as finance and health
Association Capacity Building (ACB) Programme – Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs
The fruits of the restructuring exercise and UCAZ’s potential to scale even greater heights were immediately recognised by its international partners. It was selected as one of the five Association Capacity Building (ACB) pilot projects under the then International Union of Local Authorities. Through the successful participation of UCAZ in the ACB, the Association developed into a powerful and organised institution which is steering reform of local government into the new millennium. It was funded by the Dutch government to the tune of NLG354 998,00.
Within the ACB programme were plans to:
- Work with stakeholders on the development of a vision and a Strategic Business Plan for the Association
- Develop the role and position of the Association in representing and promoting local governments and lobbying on their behalf
- Effectively interact with stakeholders, research and develop longer term policy issues, improve the representation of women and initiate reform and development programmes
- Address the gender imbalances within local government
- Improve the capacity of the Association to respond to the training and development needs of its members
Municipal international Co-operation
Having realised the importance of Municipal International Co-operation (MIC) in a rapidly changing global village, UCAZ has committed itself to working closely with like-minded institutions world-wide for the betterment of its members and their communities. The Association has strong partnerships with the Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association (SUMA) of Canada. In addition, the Association is a member of the following international local government organisations: United Cities and Local Governments of Africa Southern Africa Regional Office (UCLGA – SARO), the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI) and the Commonwealth Local Government Forum (CLGF).
Following the successful implementation of the ACB Programme, UCAZ, in a true spirit of municipal international co-operation, collaborated with SUMA to offer technical assistance to the Association of Local Government Authorities of Kenya (ALGAK) in the formulation of ALGAK’s Strategic Plan, Capacity Building Programme, Gender and Financial Mobilisation Strategy.