The highly-publicised matter involving the suspension of four Harare City Council directors has become a curious one in light of new information on the saga.
By Learnmore Zuze
To the untrained eye, the issue is very emotive, painting a picture of a totally reckless and free-spending directorate highly-insensitive to the pressing needs of a rundown city.
From a political standpoint to a corporate perception, I am hardly one to support acts of corruption and here it becomes supremely imperative that we remain objective and act like the revered intellectuals that we are esteemed to be as Zimbabweans in the world.
I believe the mayor is an educated man, who should have a grasp of what exactly constitutes criminal abuse of office and what does not.
The impression created across various media in the country betrays a not-so-covert plan to discredit.
The mayor, in the entire fiasco, is cast as a man of unswerving probity, but is Bernard Manyenyeni really acting in good faith in this matter?
The mayor cannot act on the spur of the moment without a legal framework on which to pin his intended targets.
Oftentimes, in courts of law, complainants have been reprimanded for wasting the court’s time on matters whose defectiveness should long have been noted.
On national affairs, we must never be driven by vindictiveness or political affiliation.
Two weeks ago, the mayor spearheaded the suspension of top managers (acting town clerk, Josephine Ncube, finance director, Tendai Kwenda, health director, Prosper Chonzi and the human capital director, Cainos Chingombe) pending disciplinary hearings on allegations that they received holiday allowances, performance-based bonuses and annual bonuses without council’s approvals.
However, a simple glance into the contracts of the named public officials plainly reveals that not only are these directors entitled to these benefits, but to more perks, which absolves them from any wrongdoing.
To begin with, the allegations on which the directors have been suspended do not, in the slightest, constitute criminal abuse of office.
As a mayor, Manyenyeni is expected to be conversant with council regulations and standing orders.
Nearly all the mentioned things are clearly provided for in the contracts of the directors.
Is it criminal to receive a fuel voucher when a condition of employment provides for it?
How does the mayor and his handpicked tribunal define criminal abuse of office?
In a competent court of law, such accusations would result in the mayor being embarrassed before a judge of law.
There can be no criminal case when accused persons are simply acting in tandem with what is within their contracts.
Turning to the mayor’s tenure in office, Harare has gone for two years now without a substantive town clerk.
While the mayor will leave office soon, some of the matters he has handled inappropriately will stand to haunt council for years to come.
Take, for instance, the James Mushore botched town clerk appointment, which is set to have the local authority losing hundreds of thousands of dollars, as the man is technically a council employee.
While a lot may be said in this regard and many fingers pointed, the buck stops with the mayor.
At one time, the mayor faced allegations of blatant nepotism, when his uncle was controversially appointed as finance director.
To be precise, the mayor may not be the squeaky clean cleanser of alleged corruption at council.
In fact, on closer scrutiny, the suspension of the four directors smacks of an agenda that is not so upright.
It seems apparent that Manyenyeni has targeted certain individuals in the council executive.
The push by Manyenyeni to suspend these directors certainly leaves a bitter taste in the mouth.
Through his actions, the mayor risks creating the same scenario that saw the aborted Mushore appointment.
His actions can easily be misread, seeing as it is that one of the top managers he has suspended is among the main contenders for landing the post of town clerk.
The suspension can be read as a ploy meant to disqualify him when all due process points to a possible nomination for the position.
If the mayor was acting in good faith, then certainly, he should have raised points of order well in time rather than seek to disadvantage one of the directors at the 11th hour on these allegations.
The report from the tribunal, which the mayor seeks to rely on to nail the directors, lacks objectivity, as no one really has enough knowledge, as to who really set it up and for what objective.
The matter has political undertones, which should never be the case in pursuance of national development.
Is the mayor of Harare really acting for the common good in pushing for these suspensions?
Justice, objectivity and truth must reign.
We must not be driven by vindictiveness.
Learnmore Zuze is a law officer and writes in his own capacity. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org