The rot at Chitungwiza Municipality which Local Government minister Ignatius Chombo has finally decided to act on is not news to Zimbabweans who have been following the issue over the past decade.
That Chombo has at last made the move to stamp out the corruption and recover some sanity at Chitungwiza is a big relief for residents of that blighted town.
Reports of corruption and mismanagement at Chitungwiza had become such a common feature in the media that residents, who had hoped action would be taken, had become disillusioned and resigned themselves to the fate of nature that had given them “untouchable” managers.
The corruption started many years ago, long before the council’s political dispensation changed with a former opposition party assuming control.
Then, the most common graft involved residential and commercial stands.
Councillors had a freehold on the land in Chitungwiza — there was no limit to the number of stands they could lay claim to. In the first days, when symptoms of the corruption began to show — around the early ‘90s — the stands were used to buy votes, as employment opportunities were so abused.
The trend changed phenomenally when Zimbabwe’s economy went into a tailspin in the decade beginning 2000 when survival became a dog eat dog situation and money became life.
Almost every councillor in Chitungwiza became a land baron and when the media poked its nose into that rot, the councillors sought to legalise their land grab by passing resolutions in council that gave them entitlement to several stands each — ostensibly for the benefit of their less privileged subjects.
That done, the legalised land scandal became a raging fire. By the time political power changed hands and the American dollar became legal tender, city fathers (and mothers) totally lost their heads.
The stand deals that used to be the preserve of generally poor councillors were seized upon by the powerful members of council management.
City directors became the most notorious dealers in stands and several such directors are well known for their stand deals where they are making a killing. They obtain council stands for free and sell them for an average $4 000 each. They have a limitless number of these stands!
The current council management in Chitungwiza however takes the corruption kudos. The management, led by Godfrey Tanyanyiwa, appears to have thrown all caution to the wind as it goes into corruption overdrive where dignity and morality no longer have relevance.
When people in positions of authority take public funds to buy themselves mansions and luxury cars while workers that are supposed to be paid from the public funds go for months, including even the festive month of December, without pay, then it becomes clear the city has gone to the dogs.
Residents of Chitungwiza had come to a point where they had given up on the rot in council. The accepted theory had become that council management was untouchable.
The depth to which the men and women running affairs at Chitungwiza had sunk is frightful. The things that these people are reported — quite reliably — to have done, reduces to child’s play the housing and loan fraud that Chombo appears shocked by. We wonder what Chombo has been doing all this time!
Let’s hope investigations reveal why things have been allowed to deteriorate to current levels and why some workers have still not been paid.