The 2008 harmonised elections completely transformed local government in Zimbabwe as they ushered in new local authorities dominated by the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) formations even outside the major cities.
Although Zanu PF was banished from Harare, Mutare, Chitungwiza and Bulawayo munipalities among others as far back 2000, the powers vested in Local Government, Urban and Rural Development minister Ignatius Chombo had delayed the transformation.
Chombo replaced elected councils in Harare, Mutare and Chitungwiza with Zanu PF-aligned commissions on flimsy excuses that the MDC-dominated local authorities had failed to perform.
This resulted in deterioration of services especially in Harare where the non-elected commissioners were accused of helping themselves to municipal land in most prime residential areas.
Therefore, the last election had brought a breath of fresh air abound with optimism that the new brooms would sweep clean after the MDC-T took control of almost all urban and rural councils.
But before the celebrations were over, there were shocking reports of corruption in Chitungwiza. Chombo was back in action wielding the axe in Harare, Chitungwiza and some municipalities where councillors were caught behaving worse than the system their party had vowed to confine to history in its electoral promises.
Indeed Chombo’s meddling was expected, but it was disheartening for long suffering residents that their promised “Messiahs” could be caught going the same path traversed by their Zanu PF predecessors.
If they were not caught dipping their hands in council coffers, the councillors were making outrageous demands such as for laptops for themselves and diplomatic passports for mayors.
The Zanu PF syndrome of subordinating issues of service delivery to selfish aspirations for councillors had become evident in the MDC-T-run councils.
It is for this reason that we welcome the weekend resolution by the MDC-T’s national executive council to probe and flush out all its councillors suspected of involvement in corrupt activities. Tendai Biti, the MDC-T secretary-general, said the party was concerned about “the corruption, lack of delivery and chaos resulting from ministerial interference in some of these councils and local authorities.
“The party resolves that it will set up committees to investigate and audit each of the councillors and councils that will consider issues of good governance, accountability and policy consistency,” Biti said.
“The national council will proscribe and bar any guilty councillor from holding any office in the party.”
Biti correctly noted that if this behaviour by councilors was left unchecked, it could cost the MDC-T dearly in the next elections.
Councillors are at the grassroots of any political party and their behaviour impacts tremendously on the image of the organisation in the eyes of the electorate.
The reason why the MDC-T councillors were voted in ahead of Zanu PF representatives was because residents were tired of the corruption and arrogance shown by most local authorities.
The decision by the MDC-T was very bold and somehow uncharacteristic of Zimbabwean politics where admission of failure is considered treasonous.
All eyes would now be on the MDC-T to see if these were not just empty threats. After enduring 31 years of uncaring leadership, Zimbabweans deserve better.
The MDC-T owes it to the millions of Zimbabweans who have entrusted it with their votes to deal decisively with representatives who are abusing the trust bestowed on them to enrich themselves.