Local Government, Rural and Urban Development minister Ignatius Chombo on Thursday came under a barrage of criticism from councillors all over the country’s local authorities who accused him of stifling development because of his unwarranted interference.
Participants at a workshop organised by the Ministry of Finance blasted Chombo and other government ministers for paralysing councils by their unnecessary interference and giving “dangerous directives”.
Urban Councils’ Association of Zimbabwe president who is also Masvingo mayor, Alderman Femius Chakabuda, said urban councils were malfunctioning because of poor management by central government which he accused of meddling in council affairs.
“We have a central government that delegates power and can then take it away with impunity. It is this delegation of power that is creating problems in local authorities,” Chakabuda said.
“You find that after a mayor meets his councillors and resolves something, a directive comes from the minister.
“You work on a budget and a directive comes from the minister saying reduce clinic fees.
“What does this mean?” he asked.
His statements were in apparent reference to Chombo who has given a directive to all local authorities to reduce maternity fees and other tariffs.
“These directives are affecting us. If residents see a minister on television saying don’t pay rates, obviously residents will not for they know they will be protected.”
All council representatives from cities and district councils concurred interference and directives rendered them useless.
Chakabuda also castigated Zimbabwe National Road Authority (Zinara) for alleged unfair distribution of road maintenance funds.
The MDC-T MP for Bulawayo South, Eddie Cross, questioned how Zinara was allocating resources citing examples of the money given to Bindura vis-à-vis what Bulawayo got.
Cross said local authorities should be independent if they were to provide meaningful services to the people.
“Independence and sovereignty should be entrenched in local authorities,” he said.
Zakeu Nhuchi, vice-chairman of Chimanimani council, said ministerial meddling in local authority business was frustrating.
Chombo is known for meddling in council affairs, especially those run by the MDC-T party.
He has often set himself on a collision course with mayors and his deputy Sessel Zvidzai over his unilateral decisions.