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Stop Chombo to save our councils

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Local Government, Urban and Rural Development minister Ignatius Chombo will always be remembered for destroying governance systems in major cities to spite MDC-led councils.

Chombo, like many of his colleagues in Zanu PF, refused to accept the reality in 2000 when the then 10-month-old MDC wrested control of almost all urban centres in watershed elections.

Like a scorned suitor he responded by firing popularly elected mayors and councils in Harare, Chitungwiza and Mutare, replacing them with commissions run by Zanu PF sympathisers.

The damage caused by that politically inspired meddling was evident in the 2008-10 cholera outbreak that killed over 4 000 and affected nearly 100 000 people countrywide, with the capital being the epicentre.

Harare is currently reeling from the worst typhoid outbreak in history, largely due to Chombos interventions and the omissions of his illegal commissions that oversaw the collapse of the capital.

There was hope that with the formation of an inclusive government in 2009, the madness in our local authorities would stop.

But Chombo appears unrepentant, as we were rudely reminded by the violent removal of Mutare mayor Brian James last week.

The reasons for the mayors unceremonious suspension have not been clearly stated beyond the usual Zanu PF propaganda that elected MDC representatives are incompetent and corrupt.

The minister is threatening to wield the axe in Chinhoyi, Mutare, Harare, Chitungwiza and other MDC-run councils.

According to a story in yesterdays edition of NewsDay, Chombo claimed: I have witnessed so much corruption in the last three years than I have seen in the last 30 years.

By mentioning 30 years, he must have been referring to the period when Zanu PF had total control of local government structures in the country.

Obviously his claims cannot be backed by tangible evidence. What Zimbabweans know is that councils which resisted Chombos meddling still have their systems intact.

Bulawayo is one such local authority where the minister has never been allowed to appoint his so-called special interest councillors or commissions.

The countrys second-largest city might have its own challenges mostly attributed to the economic situation in the country, but it is not as rotten as Harare.
The MDC-T must learn from Bulawayo to counter Chombos destructive streak.

Instead of tamely complaining through Press statements, the party, which now has a strong presence in government, must be seen to be defending the millions of Zimbabweans who entrusted it with their votes.

The party cannot allow the municipalities it controls to be political playgrounds because their collapse is a matter of life and death as the cholera and typhoid outbreaks have taught us.

Chombo must be stopped before he does any more damage.

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