GOVERNMENT has extended, by another two weeks, the tenure of a 16-member taskforce team appointed to investigate shady land deals and the mushrooming of illegal structures in Seke and Chitungwiza and ordered the cash-strapped local authority to shell out $15 000 daily allowances for the team’s stay.
BY MOSES MATENGA
Chitungwiza mayor Phillip Mutoti confirmed the development yesterday, saying the directive had come from Local Government minister Ignatius Chombo and relayed to councillors by town clerk George Makunde on Wednesday.
“The figures are shocking,” Mutoti said.
“The team is taking $15 000 a day and the council is even struggling to pay its workers. Where can we get that money? They extended the days up until sometime next week.”
At $900 per day each, the 16 team members were set to gobble $300 000 at the end of its 21-day stay in Harare’s dormitory town.
The team, which is headed by Chombo’s deputy Joel Biggie Matiza was appointed on November 1 this year with the mandate to investigate cases of illegal structures that have mushroomed in Chitungwiza with a view to either demolish or regularise some of them.
Before the latest extension, the team was supposed to have submitted its findings to Chombo yesterday.
In a statement, Chitungwiza Residents’ Trust (CHITREST) described the move as ill-advised and meant to milk the local authority at a time it is struggling to provide service delivery.
“CHITREST can confirm that the investigation commission has requested for an extension of its stay from the responsible minister who has since granted the extension,” said the residents’ group.
“A full council meeting was held today (Wednesday) by the city fathers of Chitungwiza where the town clerk, George Makunde announced the ministerial directive to extend the duration of the commission’s work by 14 days. This was just a briefing to the councillors since they are not allowed to debate any ministerial directive.
“The position of the government that the so-called illegal structures will be demolished and then new houses built for the victims is tantamount to promising building bridges where there are no rivers since this is coming from a government which has no budget for 2014 and is also failing to adequately remunerate its civil servants, let alone pay them their annual bonuses.
“The huge burden of financing the activities and allowances of this bloated commission is being borne by the ratepayers through their hard-earned and scarce US dollars. Each of the 16 commissioners is getting around $900 per day, meaning that council is losing close to $15 000 per day towards this exercise yet it is sitting on a salary backlog of close to a year.”
“We, therefore, demand that the government revises its priorities and focus on key developmental issues which include areas such as health, education, resuscitation of industry and infrastructural development rather than majoring on minor political issues.”
Last year, Chombo set up a similar team to resuscitate Chitungwiza at a huge cost to the ratepayers.