Local Government minister Ignatius Chombo’s decision to suspend two Harare councillors that make part of a committee investigating him on allegations of land theft has sparked another furore between him and Harare mayor Muchadeyi Masunda.
Masunda last week described Chombo’s action as “unprofessional” and suspicious.
He accused Chombo of once again leaking information before the recipients who included himself, the councillors involved, Warship Dumba and Casper Takura, the chairman and members of the committee respectively.
“Chombo is at it again. That letter (of suspension) is dated December 15, but I only got it yesterday (last Tuesday) after I had received a call from people referring to the letters,” he said.
“There we go again with Chombo’s business of leaking information instead of engaging the people in question. His conduct is unprofessional and it seems he forgets he is a minister and I am the mayor and that we have to work together for the good of the people,” Masunda said.
It has been learnt the charges against the councillors are that they allegedly misrepresented facts when they claimed fuel allowances to travel for a council meeting in Kariba.
Dumba and Takura were alleged to have used one vehicle to travel to the meeting but went on to claim separate fuel allowances.
The two have denied the allegations and said in interviews the charge was “funny” considering all councillors who went there were given allowances.
Takura said the suspension was politically motivated and meant to silence councillors who last week adopted a resolution to call Chombo to Town House to explain his earlier dismissal of another four councillors.
Takura said he signed for the fuel and was sanctioned by council to travel to Kariba for a council meeting.
“I did not travel with Dumba but I went with a brother who allowed me to use his vehicle,” he said.
“No one raised that issue in council but I am surprised with what Chombo has done,” said Takura.
Masunda said Chombo’s action had raised eyebrows and people would have no option but to believe that he was victimising the two councillors for investigating him.
“The conclusion that people will make is that the two councillors are being punished for being part of the ad hoc land investigating committee. Residents will be excused for thinking they are being victimised,” Masunda said.
The letter Chombo wrote to the two councillors was copied to Masunda, and the town clerk, Tendai Mahachi. But the mayor said he was surprised the letter took close to a week to reach his office when it was already in the public domain.
Masunda said he was surprised to receive a call from individuals asking questions about the letter when he and the councillors had not received it.
He said Chombo’s ministry was supposed to be council’s parent ministry but curiously he had not been consulted before the minister took the drastic action.
Chombo however remained adamant that what he was doing within Harare and other councils around the country was above board as he wanted to instill discipline.
According to a letter dated December 15, signed by Chombo, the two councillors would not conduct any council business including the land investigation.
Part of the letter reads: “Following reports of dishonesty in connection with council funds on your part, I hereby suspend you from being a councillor of Harare City Council.
“During the period of the suspension you shall not conduct any council business within or outside the council premises, and you shall not be eligible to receive any form of remuneration from council.”
Dumba said his suspension was retaliation by Chombo for the motion he moved during a full council meeting last week suggesting that council summons the minister to explain why he fired four councillors.
“It’s not a surprise after I moved a motion in council last week.
“I also had taken another file further implicating the minister in land deals. It was a direct threat to him and he thinks that if we are out of council, we cannot report the matter to the police,” he said.