On Wednesday morning, a day after the resignation of Willy Ndizeye and his two deputies, the mood at the Gasabo District headquarters in Kacyiru was deceptive; it seemed to be business as usual but a crisis meeting had just concluded in which one particular question was asked, “what next?”
A source at the district head office, happy to gossip about the ongoing political developments told The New Times that earlier that morning, between 7am and 8am, Augustin Ingabire, Gasabo’s Executive Secretary, now acting mayor had presided over a meeting attended by sector executive secretaries.
“I don’t know what they discussed but rumour has it that they’re trying to replace the departed officials,” said the staff who preferred anonymity.
Yet many of the workers talked to yesterday feigned ignorance on who was acting mayor following Ndizeye’s departure.
But even as the technical officials figured out how to fill the leadership void, Gasabo residents clearly weren’t taking a break from demanding for services; the benches in the corridors were laden with waiting clients while the land department on the ground floor was filled up with about 50 clients.
Ironically, these are offices that have been dogged by claims of poor services, leading to the district’s miserable performances in successive annual Imihigo rankings and the reason many believe forced the mayor and the two vice mayors to finally throw in the towel.
But the decision to resign on Tuesday afternoon by Ndizeye and the vice mayors; Jean Claude Munara (in charge of finance and economic planning) and Marie Louise Uwimana for social affairs shocked most of the staff at Gasabo, at least those who spoke to The New Times.
“I was shocked, he didn’t bid us farewell,” said an administrative secretary on the first floor.
Another low ranking official told this reporter that in the hours before the resignations were announced, everything went on as usual.
“Despite the resignations, yesterday was an ordinary day for us,” said the uniformed staffer donning a Gasabo District T-shirt.
In a second floor office, the permanent secretary of the district council, Bernadette Benimana, was bemused at the mention that the visitor before her was a journalist from The New Times, she begged to be left alone, saying she was out of office when the mayor resigned.
“It is you people who give us news, please leave me, I am just a humble staff whose job is to receive and guide clients with official documents,” she pleaded.
But Benon Nteziyaremye, a resident who had come to enquire about his construction plan, says he’s fed up with the bureaucracy at Gasabo and that he hoped the resignation will pave way for positive reforms.
“The mayor’s resignation is long over due. I would love to see more people at the sector level resigning because incompetence in the district is widespread and there is need for a total overhaul,” ranted the service seeker.
Inside the Mayor’s office
The office of the man who has since assumed the Mayor’s hot seat in acting capacity is on the far end of the corridor of the first floor, a passport size picture of his is glued on the wooden door with a description; Augustin Ingabire, District Executive Secretary.
On opening the door, I meet a man with a dark skin complexion wearing a black suit and occupying a large office leather seat. The huge office table is filled with about a dozen well organised files of pending work.
Constitutionally, Gasabo should have a new mayor within the next three months but in the meantime, Ingabire will, on top of being the district executive secretary, also assume the role of the mayor and his two deputies.
“It’s a grueling task but we are in these offices to serve Rwandans,” he told The New Times yesterday.
Earlier that morning, Ingabire had met his team of sector executive secretaries and district managers.
“I told them to embrace the new developments with a positive attitude, continue serving diligently and double their efforts to improve efficiency,” he said.
Today (Thursday), the acting mayor will lead sector executive secretaries, directors at district level and other stakeholders to interface with the district council and chart a way forward for the district.
As executive secretary, Ingabire’s work is mainly to coordinate the technical team to implement district policy but now as acting mayor, he will also provide political oversight and general policy guidance.
In a brief telephone conversation yesterday morning, Ndizeye, who had been Gasabo’s mayor since February 2010, said he was attending to his mother who was reportedly sick and was preparing to drive her to hospital.
Meanwhile, at his former place of work, Ingabire and company were trying to fill the void he left behind.
“Let’s be fair to Gasabo, the district constitutes over 50 per cent of Kigali and we surely perform, maybe not well enough but if we were that bad as alleged, it would also mean the entire city is bad,” countered Ingabire.
During his tenure as acting mayor, Ingabire said he wants to improve people’s perception of Gasabo mainly through improving service delivery and public relations.
He added that the district is currently understaffed and that’s why they had been unable to serve to the expectations of the public, something he suspects has also impacted on Gasabo’s performance.
“The decision to halt public recruitments came at a time we were recruiting staff to fill up gaps and this has affected our performance, especially in the land department where we receive up to 200 clients a day,” Ingabire said.
But now the district hopes to have a recruitment window in January next year during which it plans to fill up vacancies and strengthen its team.
“We shall also recruit a professional communication expert to handle our public and media relations to communicate Gasabo’s story in a better and fair way,” he said.
Ingabire told The New Times that Gasabo’s efforts to clump down on illegal structures that are not in line with the city master plan have also won the district more enemies than friends.
“You find residents erecting structures that don’t meet the city master plan and when we swing the whip, they think we are harassing them,” he observed.
But Ingabire revealed that a solution has since been devised. He said over Rwf1 billion has been put aside to acquire land in each of the cells in the district where people with low incomes can be helped to acquire space to put up low income structures.
The decision had been informed by low income residents who had plots of land in various parts of Gasabo but lacked the capacity to develop them in line with the city master plan.
But with the district acquiring land, Ingabire said, apart from blocking illegal developments, the district will now offer affected residents an alternative.
“Some of these efforts have already started and with more public awareness, Gasabo’s image will slowly pick up,” Ingabire.
Additional reporting by Sharon Ndayambaje and Lillian Akaliza