Buhera Central MP Tangwa Matimba (MDC-T ) intends to introduce a private member’s Bill to Parliament to clip the wings of Local Government, Urban and Rural Development minister Ignatius Chombo.
Matimba moved a motion in the House of Assembly on Tuesday seeking to bring in a Bill to amend the Urban Councils Act by reducing the powers of central government over municipal and town councils, as a way to encourage democracy at local levels.
Matimba said the Bill would correct anomalies arising from previous amendments made to the Act as the current piece of legislation left a lot to be desired in terms of good governance.
“It is important that we in this august House make necessary amendments to the Act to ensure our councils are effectively and efficiently managed with minimum interference from the minister and even the President,” said Matimba.
“We need to amend this Act so that councils will be run by wholly elected councillors and ensure that appointed councillors will not be important in this Bill, as well as to limit the powers of the minister so that he does not become a lone player,” he said.
Matimba said some of the decisions made by the minister should be approved by a relevant committee on Local Government.
He said the powers vested in the minister were so excessive he could make some decisions without consultation.
“Sections 112, 114, 138 and 206 of the Urban Councils Act give a plethora of authority to the minister to act as he so wishes without due consultation. The powers of the minister must be curtailed,” said Matimba.
The motion was seconded by Highfield West MP Simon Hove (MDC-T), who said the Act needed to be amended because it was “dangerous” in its present state.
“When people are given an opportunity to select people to preside over councils, their expectation is accessibility and accountability, but the Urban Councils Act as it currently obtains is full of innuendos that seem to take away power from those that were given that power by the citizens. The minister has too much power without being accountable to citizens,” Hove said.
He said the powers bestowed on the minister to appoint special interest councillors should be repealed from the Act.
Mutasa South MP and former Mutare mayor Misheck Kagurabadza described Chombo as a warlord in urban councils.
“The Urban Councils Act is often referred to as the minister’s booklet because if you go through it, it says ‘the minister may’ or ‘the minister shall’, yet the purpose of councils is to be an eye for central government,” Kagurabadza said.
He said executive mayors should be re-introduced as most councils were now being run by town clerks who were not elected by people but responded to the minister’s wishes.