MDC-T has castigated the latest move by Local Government minister Ignatius Chombo, to force Harare City Council to pay the probe team investigating the city fathers close to $100 000.
The party said it was fully behind Mayor Muchadeyi Masunda in refusing to pay the team that probed Harare councillors who are alleged to have attempted to illegally evict tenants from council houses.
The party described the move by Chombo as a ploy to fleece Harare residents of their hard-earned income and to sabotage service delivery through unending investigations and blatant interference in the affairs of the city.
“The MDC is concerned that after Chombo probed the council for what he called irregular evictions of residents from council houses and suspended the councillors he suspected of wrongdoing, he launched yet another committee to pursue the same issue at an astronomical cost to the council,” said the MDC-T in a statement.
“In both cases, Chombo simply fixes the charges for the investigations, without any justification or consultation with either the council or Mayor (Muchadeyi) Masunda, sparking unnecessary confrontation to the detriment of the city’s residents and ratepayers.”
Last week, Masunda refused to folk out more than $100 000 for Chombo’s new nine-member team, chaired by lawyer Andrew Makoni.
This comes after councillors also fumed refusing to pay the first team that was led by Pisirayi Kwenda, another lawyer.
The team presented its findings to Chombo who set up another team to “further investigate” the councillors.
The party questioned how Chombo fixed the $30 000 for Makoni, $18 000 and $13 000 each for two members of the team, $9 000 for one and $8 500 for the last member of the team.
In addition, Harare is expected to pay an interpreter $8 500 with the transcriber getting $6 000.
The council has already paid $37 000 under protest to the Kwenda committee that Chombo appointed earlier for a similar assignment.
Meanwhile, defence lawyer representing the suspended Harare city councillors who are alleged to have illegally attempted to evict tenants from council houses said the case was proving to be a waste of time and resources with witnesses who were lined up to testify proving not to be genuine.
Alec Muchadehama told NewsDay that the ongoing hearing was full of drama and the latest turn of events was proving that the councillors had no case to answer.
He said last week, some witnesses who were supposed to testify against the councillors were believed to have gone back to Malawi while he turned down an attempt to have a woman who wanted to testify as she was not on the list of witnesses.
“The other witness said she was told to move out of the house not by the accused councillor but by someone else and that explains my clients have no case,” said the renowned human rights lawyer.
“Another woman just came and said she wanted to testify but we denied that. She can’t just come and say she wants to testify, who called her?” he asked.
“This is just an episode of drama and it’s proving the councillors have no case to answer,” Muchadehama said. Last week, senior council officials including the director of housing Justin Chivavaya testified and defended the councillors saying what they did was above board.
He said the councillors had followed the 2002 resolution adopted by council with Chombo’s consent.