The stage has been set for a bruising legal battle between Local Government and Urban Development minister Ignatius Chombo and the four Harare city councillors whom he fired last week.
Councillors Sulas Machetu, Paul Gorekore, Maxwell Katsande and Johnson Zaranyika were dismissed by Chombo for allegedly evicting council tenants from their houses fraudulently.
They were also accused of accepting residential stands that were allegedly unprocedurally allocated to them from outside their wards.
Three other councillors who were also under probe, Herbert Gomba, Peter Marange and Job Mbadzi, survived the chop, but Marange received a final warning.
The axed city fathers have instructed their lawyer Alec Muchadehama to challenge the “unfair dismissal”.
“My clients gave me their letters of dismissal this morning (Wednesday) and we are going to challenge their dismissal in the High Court,” said Muchadehama.
“There was no basis for the action taken by Chombo as some witnesses withdrew their cases and those who testified did not give satisfactory evidence to nail the accused councillors.”
Muchadehama said there was “overwhelming evidence from some of the said witnesses” that exonerated the councillors, including council officials like the director of housing and community services, Justin Chivavaya, who told the boards of inquiry investigating the councillors that the action by the councillors was above board.
Chombo has set up three different boards of inquiry to investigate the same allegations against the councillors but, according to Harare Mayor Muchadeyi Masunda, the minister has not made available to the city any of the reports produced by the three teams.
The minister, however, according to the mayor, ordered the council to pay huge sums of money as fees for the three teams for apparently duplicating each other’s work and without furnishing council with results of their investigations.
The three teams were led by Pisirayi Kwenda, Andrew Makoni and Munamato Mutevedzi respectively.
The mayor questioned the composition of the probe teams some of whose members were not qualified for the task.
The mayor and the city fathers have so far resisted Chombo’s orders to pay the probe teams.
Councillors who spoke to NewsDay about the payment of the three probe teams on Wednesday expressed fear that if “Chombo’s wings are not clipped”, he would eat into all local authorities’ coffers with impunity.
They said they believed what Chombo was doing was to frustrate them and sabotage their efforts to normalise service delivery in various cities and towns, a majority of which were run by the MDC-T councils.
The Combined Harare Residents’ Association (CHRA) described the move by Chombo as cheap politicking.
CHRA chairman, Simbarashe Moyo, said Chombo did not have the powers to fire elected councillors.
“Only those who elected them should fire them. In fact, it is the minister himself who should be fired because his cases of corruption are well documented,” he said.
Meanwhile, scores of Harare residents on Tuesday took to the streets demonstrating against Chombo’s alleged amassing of massive wealth.
They were led by CHRA’s programmes chairperson Evernice Munando. The residents carried placards and sang songs denigrating Chombo whom they described as “irreconcilably corrupt”.
They challenged Chombo to produce his own list of properties he owned if the one that had been widely published in the media, allegedly sourced from his wife, was not correct as he claimed.
The residents also called for the nullification of Chombo’s recent sacking of councillors saying the city fathers had not done anything to warrant their dismissal.
“Those councillors dismissed by Chombo must come back to office. The Constitution must be changed to clip Chombo’s wings,” the residents said.