Chitungwiza residents threaten to take council to ConCourt

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Chitungwiza residents say they will soon be approaching the Constitutional Court (ConCourt) seeking an order declaring illegal, their local authority’s continued violation of their constitutional rights to attend full council meetings.

BY Edgar Gweshe

This comes after residents were barred for the third time from attending a full council meeting on Thursday.

After protesting against the move by council, leaders of residents’ associations in attendance during the meeting were thrown out by a group of councillors and security officers allegedly at the instigation of mayor Philip Mutoti.

There was chaos as residents outside clashed with the police who were blocking them from entering and journalist Philemon Jambaya sustained injuries after council police officers confronted him whilst he was taking pictures of the protests.

Section 87 of the Urban Councils Act (Chapter 29:15) recognises that “every meeting of a council shall be open to the public and the Press”.

In a joint Press statement yesterday, residents’ associations under the banner of the Harare Metropolitan Residents’ Forum (HamRef) said residents’ constitutional rights were being infringed on adding that this was an urgent matter which required the intervention of the courts.

HamRef said that excuses being given by the MDC-T-dominated council that the venue of the full council meeting could not accommodate many people did not hold water.

“We will be approaching the Constitutional Court to seek an order compelling the municipality to take measures to ensure that the venue of the full council is accessible to the public and the media. We will also seek an order declaring that the actions of the council to bar residents from attending full council meetings are illegal,” said HamRef in the statement.

HamRef said they would also seek an audience with MDC-T President Morgan Tsvangirai over the conduct of the MDC-T dominated Chitungwiza council.

“We have also resolved to petition the president of the MDC-T, Mr Morgan Tsvangirai to reign in on their mayor who is clearly on a warpath with residents. We have received several reports of poor performance, barring of residents from attending meetings and all of this militates against the participation of residents associations in urban development,” said HamRef.

The resident’s association said that there was a “security crisis” that needed urgent attention in Chitungwiza.

Residents contend that the move to bar them from attending full council meetings is part of plans by officials to sweep illicit deals under the carpet.

Yesterday’s attack on Jambaya was condemned by the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) which said the development was an affront to media freedom.

MDC-T secretary for local government, Eddie Cross said he was in a meeting when contacted for comment while the party spokesperson Obert Gutu said that he was yet to get a brief from mayor Mutoti.