Kwekwe councillors have alleged that they are being abused and intimidated by top municipal executives who do not want them to express their opinions in the media.
by BLESSED MHLANGA
Speaking at a Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe (VMCZ) workshop on Wednesday, councillor Aaron Gwalazimba said city fathers were being threatened and manipulated by top management to stop them from releasing important information to the media.
“We have seen witch-hunting in council when information is reported on especially the contentious issue of the salary of the town clerk (Emmanuel Musara) and threats of unspecified action have been made against councillors,” he alleged.
In 2009, Kwekwe City Council barred councillors from speaking to the media, saying only the mayor and town clerk had the right to do that.
Recently, councillors who make up the audit committee were summoned for a meeting and warned action could be taken against them after two external audit reports exposing alleged financial mismanagement were leaked to the media.
VMCZ executive director Loughty Dube said councillors had the right to interact with journalists and share information to encourage accountability and transparency.
“When information is made readily available to journalists, it encourages accountability and transparency in public institutions and the assumption that journalists report to fan conflict or disagreement is wrong because exposing issues like corruption or violence is to bring them to the fore so that they can be solved,” Dube said.
Redcliff councillor Clayton Masiyatsva said councillors faced threats when they conveyed their opinion to journalists on matters involving council.
He said most council meetings were held under a cloud of suspicion between management and councillors over information which is leaked to the media.
“Management even got to the point of threatening to sue councillors for discussing their salaries in the Press, even minutes of full council are regarded as private and confidential making it difficult for us to communicate with the electorate,” he said.
Councillors met with editors of provincial newspapers to discuss access of information held by local authorities at a time councils have increasingly become secretive.