BY CHARLES LAITON
THE High Court has approved Harare City Council’s 2018 budget which had been challenged by residents and lobby groups who argued that council had no legal authority to source a US$11 million loan from CABS to fund payment of salaries and benefits.
The Community Water Alliance Trust (CWAT) and the Combined Harare Residents Association (CHRA) had sued the council claiming it unlawfully accessed the loan facility from the financial institution to finance salaries and terminal benefits.
CWAT and CHRA argued that council contravened section 290 and section 292 of the Urban Councils Act.
Sometime in October 2017, CWAT and CHRA hosted a meeting to discuss the proposed 2018 budget for the Harare City Council during which meeting, residents raised concern over the council’s failure to consult properly before coming up with the budget proposal.
Following the approval of the budget, the residents’ representatives then approached the High Court challenging the Local Government minister’s approval of the budget and sought a declaratur to have his decision nullified.
However, on March 4 this year, High Court judge Justice Joseph Mafusire heard the matter and ruled in favour of City of Harare saying its decision concerning the 2018 budget and the bank loan was above board and approved in terms of the law.
“The applicants (CWAT and CHRA) urge me to find that council’s borrowings were in terms of section 290 and section 292 and to impeach them because the loans went towards paying employment salaries contrary to the express prohibition in section 292.” Part of the ruling read.
“On the other hand, the respondents (City of Harare and Local Government minister) urge me to find that the borrowings were made in terms of section 291 which has no such restrictions, but it is in fact permissible of such powers where the borrowing is for short term temporary financial accommodation.”
Justice Mafusire said the borrowing by council had been sanctioned by the minister and the “court cannot substitute its own decision for that of the minister, except in special circumstances…”
“In other words, the CABS loans were duly authorised. The budget itself was duly authorised. Nothing turns in the circulars in the face of the authorisation. In the final analysis, there are no grounds to issue the declaratory orders sought by the applicants.”