Deputy Chief Secretary in the Office of the President and Cabinet and presidential spokesperson George Charamba’s weekend utterances are unfortunate. First because he’s a top civil servant who needs to be neutral, not to mention that his diatribe is probably misplaced. Infact, his hatchet job exposes those behind the contentious Pomona deal.
Charamba was reportedly quoted as saying: “The government is not taking over the Pomona project, but is merely approving the project. The project owners are the Harare City Council (HCC) and what the government is simply doing is to approve and there is a difference between approving and taking over. He also claimed that the council voluntarily took the project to the minister (Local Government) for consideration. The minister cannot disown the minutes that he took to Cabinet.
“If this little lawyer whom you call the Mayor of Harare (Jacob Mafume) insists on opposing the Cabinet decision, he must know for sure that we will end up locking him (up) in prison. He will be a suitable candidate for Chikurubi.”
Indeed, Charamba has every right to defend Cabinet decisions, but to then threaten individuals with incarceration for simply challenging certain bad decisions made by ministers and Cabinet is disturbing, to say the least.
Because, as Charamba rightly points out, the Pomona project originated from HCC and it is, therefore, the local authority’s baby. Is it not thus within their purview to revisit the project if they feel that something went wrong during its approval?
After approving the deal, HCC could have realised that the council “was sheepishly being told to agree to this (deal) by this and that office”, which led to the local authority suspending the deal to investigate it further.
To all intents and purposes, HCC has not even cancelled the deal, but merely suspended it — which makes Charamba’s outburst rather curious. It sounds as if council is not supposed to review some of its decisions.
And given that the deal has raised so much hubbub after some residents pointed out glaring flaws in the agreement, is it not proper for council to suspend the deal and clear all questions raised about it?
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To railroad HCC into continuing with the deal, as Charamba is suggesting, without addressing all the concerns being raised is unethical, in our view.
Granted, councillors could have been “told to agree to this (deal) by this and that office”, but what if the councillors genuinely erred in approving the deal, are they not allowed to revisit the deal and rescrutinise it? Do they not have the right to even reverse certain decisions they make if they are found not to be in the best interest of Harare residents?
We feel Charamba’s diatribe on Mafume was a little harsh, if not out of step. It is as if Mafume, as council head, has committed a crime by merely suspending the deal for further scrutiny.