The city fathers of the “sewage town” of Chitungwiza, where potholes and dry taps are talk of the town, have thrust themselves back into the media limelight.
They are fighting over cars again.
The last time this graft-ridden team of councillors hogged the limelight was when they sanctioned the purchase of luxurious vehicles for its managers, including the town clerk, Godfrey Tanyanyiwa, who had a few months back wrecked his top-of-the-range Toyota Land Cruiser VX.
Tanyanyiwa demanded and got a replacement in the form of a replica of the first car – colour and all.
The financially-hamstrung municipality was forced to splash close to half a million dollars on expensive luxury cars for chamber secretary Omega Mugumbate (Toyota Fortuner), director of housing and community services Jemina Gumbo (Toyota Fortuner), director of finance Joshua Manyepa and director of works Alfonce Tinofa (both Toyota Hilux twin-cabs) and director of health services Dr Mike Simoyi (Toyota Prado).
The mayor, Philemon Chipiyo, was not part of the deal and only got his car – by far inferior to the managers’ rides – much later.
When the mayor was issued with that official vehicle, his deputy, Rangarirai Mutingwende, who is alleged to be the town clerk’s blue-eyed boy, immediately demanded his own vehicle too and the town managers obliged him with a brand new Ford Ranger.
This happened without the consent of the mayor who then questioned the acquisition on the grounds the deputy mayor did not require a vehicle and that the money could have been channelled towards service delivery.
The mayor nearly got beaten up by Mutingwende in a physical brawl at the council offices. The war against Chipiyo escalated to a point where councilors were rallied to pass a vote of no confidence in him – seeking to have him kicked out of council.
Local Government minister Ignatius Chombo, however, read in between the lines of the dubious move and declared it null and void.
He went further to advise the mayor that he had the power to and must take appropriate action against his deputy and the town clerk for insubordination.
The mayor had for a long time complained about the town clerk working with his deputy, Mutingwende, to sabotage him.
Chombo advised Tanyanyiwa in a terse letter that council had no authority to pass a vote of no confidence against Chipiyo.
The minister also said Tanyanyiwa was wrong to buy a vehicle for Mutingwende whom, as the mayor had said, was not entitled to a vehicle.
Last week the matter was raised at a full council meeting and Chombo’s directive had to be followed and the vehicle bought for Mutingwende had to be withdrawn.
But in an act of apparent desperation on the part of those fighting the mayor, some councillors moved that if Mutingwende was going to lose a car, so would the mayor.
But then, what these people do not seem to understand is that as minister Chombo said, in support of the rather too passive Chipiyo, Mutingwende is just a deputy mayor who works under the direction of the mayor and as such is not entitled to a vehicle.
What must be worrying the citizens of Chitungwiza, however, is the amount of effort put on the mundane issue of the deputy mayor’s undeserved car.
Instead of dealing with crucial issues of service delivery, corruption and other forms of decay in the city, the city fathers are brawling over little factional benefits.
No wonder the MDC-T is reluctant to take them back!