Local Government, Rural and Urban Development minister Ignatius Chombo has over the years become notorious for hindering the work of local authorities controlled by Zanu PF’s opponents.
From the commissions that he imposed in Harare to the detriment of service delivery to the appointment of the so-called special interest councillors throughout the country, Chombo has distinguished himself as a minister who thrives on chaos.
However, the minister appears to have found his match in Gwanda and Bulawayo where the MDC and MDC-T-dominated councils took him head-on whenever he tried to impose his dangerous interventions.
Gwanda mayor Lionel DeNecker was last year suspended by the minister after he refused to appoint Priscilla Nkala as chamber secretary because his council felt that she was not suitable for the important post. Chombo took the issue personally and accused the mayor from the MDC of insubordination for refusing to appoint Nkala who is suspected of having links with Zanu PF.
DeNecker took his case to the High Court and the matter is yet to be decided. The impatient minister could not wait for the court processes to run their course and started putting pressure on the acting mayor Sithokozile Sibanda to appoint Nkala.
Again Chombo’s manoeuvres characterised by threats to fire the acting mayor have not moved the council.
In Bulawayo, the city council was finally forced to swear in two special interest councillors with Zanu PF links recently after rebuffing the minister for a number of years.
But the city’s residents who believed the minister had misdirected himself in making the appointments refused to take the matter lying down and approached the High Court seeking to reverse the illogical political interventions.
The residents were vindicated this week when Bulawayo High Court judge Justice Meshack Cheda remarked in his judgment that Chombo’s “unreasonableness raises questions from any person properly applying his mind to the matter”.
Justice Cheda was questioning why the minister was pushing for Gatsha Mazithulelela and Siphiwe Ncube’s appointments at a time the current council’s term of office was coming to an end.
He doubted the two would add any value to council because of the little time at their disposal to even learn about the operations of the council and rightly barred them from involving themselves in the affairs of the municipality.
Justice Cheda’s judgment summed up Chombo’s tragic stewardship of municipalities and we hope the minister’s principals will take the advice seriously.
It is never too late to put brakes on the minister’s destructive management style that has produced tragic results in cities like Harare, where medieval diseases like cholera and typhoid have become common.