REPORTS last week that Harare mayor Bernard Manyenyeni stood accused of nepotism are quite disturbing. Harare is the country’s largest city and it is only befitting for those that hold high office act professionally and for their conduct to steer clear of controversy, but apparently this seems not to be the case. While outright falsehoods should have no place in developmental issues, happenings at the local authority have become cause for concern. The local authority continues tohog more negative than positive light. Justin Mandizha, the current finance director, has been at the centre of the nepotism storm after it emerged that he is an uncle of the mayor and curiously has been on probation for an uncharacteristic nine months.This has naturally left people with the understandable conclusion that nepotism is at play.It is unheard of that any employee could be on a probation period for a whopping nine months, almost a year. This state of affairs naturally raises eyebrows and surely people cannot be blamed for speculating. It even becomes more cryptic and raises a stink as regards competency when, following Mandizha’s appointment to the post, Harare council workers have gone for an unusual five-month salaries drought. Harare council was known, of all local authorities, for prioritising salaries regardless of the dire economic situation; it would be two months at most before salaries were paid to employees. However, the probation reign of the incumbent finance director has been the worst in council history and the workers’ anger is quite understandable.
It is imperative that a culture of nepotism and smuggling of friends to key positions is nipped in the bud given that we continue talking of zero tolerance to corruption. It crumbles institutions and affects the longsuffering worker. What makes the whole appointment in question mired in controversy is that the acting town clerk, Josephine Ncube, who should long have confirmed or disconfirmed Mandizha’s landing of the vital post, is subordinate the very mayor who is a relative of the former. Naturally, it complicates issues and most likely explains the unusual probation period.
Even more, the manner in which the Harare mayor has handled the recruitment process and the ongoing interviews for the town clerk vacancy has left residents with more questions than answers.
Firstly, it does not inspire confidence when such a high-profile post is advertised for under a personal e-mail address as was the case. It gives the impression that the mayor is the all-in-all determinant in choosing the town clerk and is not accountable to anyone. Secondly, it has become the custom that the minimum qualification for such a top position should be a master’s degree; towns far smaller than Harare such as Bindura and Chitungwiza have recruited town clerks with master’s degrees yet Harare, the principal city of the nation, has lowered the standard to a minimum basic first degree. Former town clerk Dr Tendai Mahachi’s predecessor was a holder of a master’s degree and it all makes sense when people start to make noise as they are currently doing seeing as it is that standards have been lowered perhaps to accommodate some preferred candidates. It smacks of nepotism and an inclination towards predetermining candidates. While the mayor had done well to enlist the services of a consultant, shouldn’t he have acted professionally by handing over all the recruitment work to the consultancy? It has been argued that, in using a personal e-mail, despite the availability of many official e-mails, the mayor unilaterally shortlisted the candidates before handing over his preferred list to the consultancy. The consultant, in this regard, has become more of a cog in a machine because it is evident candidates whom the mayor viewed as “threats” to his interests were elbowed out at his discretion. Harare councillors complained last week that the mayor had all but brought a culture which threatens fair recruitment of candidates for top posts. Their sentiments are not unfounded given that the mayor has reportedly hinted on several occasions that he intends to remove 50% of the current executive.
Since late last year, it was cited that the three people vying for the top post were acting town clerk Josephine Ncube, health director Dr Prosper Chonzi and human capital and public safety director Dr Cainos Chingombe. The councillors maintain that none of these people, who have working knowledge of the local authority’s systems, is likely to land the post as there are reasonable grounds to suspect a clandestine manner of recruitment. How else does one explain the dropping of a candidate who has spent a decade with the local authority and has a doctorate qualification? One wonders why the Harare Residents’ Trust stands aloof in this burning matter when they have made noise on insignificant matters in the past.
The town clerk interviews represent a sham and, in my view, should be nullified to pave way for professional recruitment. The Local Government ministry must act on the matter decisively. The city desperately needs competent and qualified personnel and cannot afford costly nepotism.
lLearnmore Zuze is a legal researcher, author, and media analyst. He writes here in his own capacity. E-mail:firstname.lastname@example.org