This is the second and final part of Local Government deputy minister Sesel Zvidzai’s response to the recent Landscape article by NewsDay Deputy Editor Tangai Chipangura titled: Zvidzai too powerless to stop boss Chombo’s axe.
The saddest development in the local government sector today is the hyperbolic decay in local governance and its failure to function. This decay began way back in the year 2000. Coincidentally, this is when the current minister was appointed to this position. In place of the vision and mission of the ministry to promote and support sound local governance, the ministry has got a new self-suiting vision as represent by Minister Ignatius Chombo. “Damn service delivery and sound local governance and focus on Local Government power dynamics.”
The minister has thus relentlessly abused the power in the Act to keep Zanu PF in power in the local government sector against the voice of the people. He has consistently disturbed and destabilised local governance in the country by unnecessarily firing innocent mayors and councillors and replacing them with bogus special interest councillors and Zanu PF functionaries.
Chombo shifted competences away from councils with dire consequences on service delivery.
Chombo has also interfered unashamedly with the appointment of town clerks and senior council staff. He appointed in Nicodimus hours, town clerks in Bindura, Chitungwiza and Chinhoyi in 2008- 2009 without taking notice of the dictates of the law.
It is common knowledge that Chitungwiza and Bindura are worst-run councils in the country and are the epicentres of both corruption and service delivery absence.
Since January 2012, Chombo has dismissed six MDC mayors and council chairpersons, three in Chinhoyi, Mutare, Zvishavane and Gwanda. In all the six cases, there is no doubt that the minister acted unlawfully and not in the interests of sound governance and service delivery.
In Chinhoyi, the mayors were fired for refusing to award a tender for water and sanitation services to a company as directed by the minister. Now tell me where in the statutes it is within the minister’s powers to award tenders on behalf of council? This is corrupt.
The most ridiculous case is the one involving the mayor of Gwanda. He has been fired, according to the minister, for refusing to take on board as chamber secretary, an individual whom the recruitment due process rejected. There is no provision whatsoever in the Act that allows both the minister and Local Government Board to dream up names and shove these down the throats of councils.
After all, history has made councils cleverer. Where Chombo has appointed incompetent town clerks as in the case of Bindura, Chitungwiza and Chinhoyi, service delivery has suffered irreparably and corruption has risen beyond proportions.
And again, show me any law which says that mayors should be zombies: take instructions without question!
Minister Chombo lives in the past and takes the voter for granted. This is why he thinks villagers cannot think . . . they are tools available for use by people like him. The villagers of Matobo might have woken him up when they challenged him in the High Court of Zimbabwe in Bulawayo to resist the irregular appointment of Zanu PF election losers as special interest councillors. What a lesson from the despised villagers of Matobo.
While Chombo has used his hard power to shoot, and kill services in the local authorities, I have used my deputy minister’s soft power to improve service delivery in the country. I managed to identify co-operating partners together with whom we made rapid studies of the water and sanitation situation in the country.
The studies which we dubbed (RAs) — RAPID APPRAISALS — have produced reports that managed to put water and sanitation the apex of the delivery agenda in the country. To date, the RAPID APPRAISALS have been funded beyond
$20 million. The ever-improving water and sanitation situations in Gweru, Kadoma, Kariba, Norton, Chitungwiza and Bulawayo are all the evidence of the success brought about by the RAPID APPRAISALS.
Some further funding is on its way to expand this programme. Norton, for example, will get its own water treatment plant and waste water treatment works soon. You do not need the hard, coercive power to achieve these results. I managed to do this without such power, without toting any guns.
While Mr Chipangura thinks we only talk and do nothing, the nation should know that we are more action than talk. We are remoulding local governance in many different ways.
The Local Government Amendment Bill is making progress in Parliament. This is a Bill that has sent Chombo screaming, kicking and shouting in an attempt to stop its passage into law.
We have used soft power to get to this stage and its passage will curtail the powers of Chombo and strengthen the local authorities and will certainly result in improved services to the consuming publics.
While the councils grapple with the challenges with courage and determination, Chombo’s panacea to the challenges is a defined script of firing the mayors and councillors.
Destabilisation of councils for political opportunism will
neither help service delivery nor win Zanu PF votes in urban local authorities.