Even before the ink of his signature dismissing four Harare City councillors is barely dry, Local Government minister Ignatius Chombo, we are told, is preparing to drop his axe on seven more city fathers for allegedly going on an unsanctioned trip to South Africa.
Granted, the minister has local authorities under his ambit and can fire wayward officials at will, but the rate at which the minister is removing elected councillors makes it appear he has a mission and is deriving joy out of it.
In 2010 alone, Chombo fired five councillors in Harare and suspended six others.
The entire council and its leader, the mayor, have questioned the minister’s actions and accused him of behaving in an arrogant, bullish and irresponsible manner.
In most cases, the mayor was informed of the minister’s decisions after the axe had already fallen and without having been consulted.
Harare was not Chombo’s only target. The controversial minister had his axe flying all over urban councils, the entirety of which is run by the former opposition MDC-T party.
This has made it difficult to dismiss public perception that Chombo has a clear motive — that he is out to undo what the electorate put in place when they voted in 2008 — a rejection of his Zanu PF party.
It is true that local authorities throughout the country have been unable to deliver — not only since 2008, but throughout the many years during which Chombo has held fort at local government.
Urban dwellers have cried their voices hoarse for clean water, good roads, refuse collection and functional sewer systems, but all they have received in reply are ever-rising bills and more burst sewers and deeper potholes.
These are issues that Zimbabweans expect minister Chombo to rectify —so as to justify his continued stay at the ministry and to accept responsibility when, as he clearly has, failed to deliver.
What is intriguing in developments at urban councils lately is the trigger-happy attitude that Chombo has suddenly grown fond of in the past three years.
Elected city fathers are being suspended and fired on allegations of corruption, some of which are either laughable or completely baseless.
Before 2008 what has suddenly become corruption was sanctioned procedure at local authorities.
Councillors were entitled to free residential and commercial stands which they could dispose of at will. Cases of fraud including theft of council funds were rampant, but the then ruling party was not keen to expose itself and therefore the cases died natural deaths.
But even as recent as yesterday evening, police were reportedly hunting down MDC-T city fathers in the resort town of Victoria Falls because they had allegedly disrupted some meeting in the town.
Such selective heavy-handedness on councillors becomes very suspicious. The motive becomes barely hidden and people get increasingly irritated.
Why should people be made to vote for officials that an appointed minister comes and kicks away — for clearly political and/or personal reasons?
Nelson Chamisa summed Chombo’s behaviour as the ultimate abuse of office. “Two things that are bedevilling service delivery in this country are Minister Chombo and Minister Chombo,” Chamisa said.
Chombo may have his time abusing power at the expense of rate payers but he must be aware that while he continues to play political games with local authorities, the people are not blind to the fact that he is ultimately responsible for the dirty water they are made to drink.
Minister Chombo must be aware that survival instinct has the last word and that today, the real threat to stability in the cities that he is playing games with is the insensitive arrogance by those who rule. Ultimately, the voters will have the last laugh.