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Masunda optimistic of New Year . . . but

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Harare mayor Muchadeyi Masunda says the New Year would see the local authority resurrecting projects gathering dust at Town House after the city fathers overcame most of the trials and tribulations of 2010.

But he took a swipe at former chairperson of the commission running the city’s affairs, Sekesai Makwavarara, warning that bringing such people anywhere near Town House was retrogressive.

In an end-of-year interview with NewsDay, Masunda, who has presided over the turnaround of the fortunes of the city since the MDC-T-dominated council took over in 2008, said his team had tried to meet the demands of residents, but calls for elections next year would jeopardise progress.

“We have made progress, but we are not there yet. We have to work really hard next year to improve the water situation which has remained our priority since coming into office,” said Masunda. He said the country should not rush into an election if real progress is to be made. He said Zimbabwe needed peace and breathing space before going into another election as that would “eliminate” the achievements made since the formation of the inclusive government.

“We sincerely hope we are going to reach a consensus on elections. We have had a glut of elections since 2000 and we cannot be in election mode forever.When there are elections, people cannot make concrete decisions and politicians being politicians tend to concentrate on vote-catching campaigns.

“For a country coming out of record hyperinflation, let us take time to consolidate the gains of the inclusive government and brace for elections in 2013,” he said. The three Global Political Agreement (GPA) principals therefore have to leave no stone unturned to make the GPA work. As council, we have started on something and it would be unfair to leave what we would have started,” Masunda said.

In 2010, the city fathers had a busy year trying to provide services and along the way, they had their fair share of frustrations.

Masunda and eight councillors were in the dock facing charges of criminally defaming property magnate Phillip Chiyangwa after a 54-page report implicating the business tycoon and Local Government minister Ignatius Chombo in cases of illegal acquisition of council land was leaked to the press.

The case saw the city fathers and Alpha Media Holdings Editor-in-Chief, Vincent Kahiya, The Standard editor, Nevanji Madanhire, and reporters Feluna Nleya and Jennifer Dube, being brought before the courts in attempts to make them testify against the councillors.

Chiyangwa later dropped the charges. While other councillors were in the dock, others were being suspended for illegally evicting tenants from their houses in different suburbs. Four of the councillors have since been fired.

Two other councillors were suspended last week on allegations of dishonesty.

Masunda said he was taking next year’s projects seriously and would make sure the local authority reclaims the thermal power station from Zesa.

Harare also engaged in a human resources audit to expose “ghost” workers who were employed by the city for political reasons and those who appeared on the payroll but were not reporting for duty.

The audit showed that the city had to reduce its workforce from 10 500 to at least 6 500.

The mayor said the sole state broadcaster, ZBC, should stop being partisan by churning out divisive jingles, but instead focus on the energy of groups like Chimurenga Choir to produce songs promoting unity and service delivery.

He said the city council was in line to achieve the set Millennium Development Goals as they have schools and clinics around the city.

He urged local authorities to desist from depending on the government, but they should instead devise strategies to keep councils afloat.

“The sooner people realise that there is no infusion of capital from anyone, the better. Finance minister Tendai Biti only allocated all local councils $48 million, which is a far cry from the desired $1, 5 billion. As council we have projects that are gathering dust and we should make use of assets like the golf course, stadiums and other recreational parks that we have to utilise,” he said.

Masunda said he had ambitious plans for the city that and would use his influence as co-president of the United Cities and Local Governance to make Harare regain its Sunshine City status. He said the city would next year address the “chaotic urban transportation system as a matter of urgency”.

The mayor said he intends to achieve this by working in conjunction with Zupco and the Ministry of Local Government. Council this year expressed concern over the increase in number of commuter omnibuses in the city that have not only become a menace on the road, but an eyesore.

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