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High Court clips Moyo’s wings

Local News
High Court Of Zimbabwe

LOCAL Government minister July Moyo has no right to rescind resolutions made by urban councils or meddle in the running of local authorities, a High Court judge has ruled.

In her ruling following a challenge by the Combined Harare Residents Association (CHRA), Justice Priscilla Munangati Manongwa said the section under scrutiny was beyond the powers of some provisions of the Constitution, therefore, it was illegal.

“It is therefore ordered as follows: Section 314 of the Urban Councils Act [Chapter 29:15] is ultra vires the provisions of s264(2), 265(1) and (2), 274 and 276(1) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe and is hereby declared invalid. The respondent to pay costs. The court is cognisant of further progression of the matter vis confirmation of the order in terms of s175 of the Constitution as read with s31 of the Constitutional Court Rules,” ruled Justice Manongwa

CHRA and four other applicants approached the High Court challenging the constitutionality of the provisions of Section 314 Urban Councils Act which they deem not to be in conformity with the 2013 Constitution.

Under the Section 314 Urban Council Act, the minister may reverse, suspend, rescind resolutions, decisions, etc of councils (1) Where the minister is of the view that any resolution,decision or action of a council is not in the interests of the inhabitants of the council area concerned or is not in the national or public interest, the minister may direct the council to reverse, suspend or rescind such resolution or decision or to reverse or suspend such action. (2) Any direction of the Minister in terms of subsection (1) to a council shall be in writing. (3) The council shall, with all due expedition, comply with any direction given to it in terms of subsection (1).”

Using the Section, Moyo has been rescinding resolutions of local authorities across the country.

The applicants argued that Section 314 gives the Minister unnecessary powers to make decisions even on non- policy issues and that the section allows Moyo to interfere with the running of council business when he is not an elected councillor.

CHRA’s lawyer Tendai Biti argued that the central government cannot, and should not interfere with running of councils in the light of section 274 of the Constitution which allows urban and local authorities to represent and manage the affairs of the people in their areas.

The applicants cited Chapter 14 of the Constitution which pertains to Provincial and Local Government; where it provides as follows:  “Whereas it is desirable to ensure: (b) the democratic participation in government by all citizens and communities of Zimbabwe; and (c) the equitable allocation of national resources and the participation of local communities in the determination of development priorities within their areas; there must be devolution of power and responsibilities to lower tiers of government in Zimbabwe.”

 Biti submitted that the lower tiers of government are thus clothed with the powers and responsibilities to run their affairs in terms of section 274 and section 265 of the Constitution which speak to urban local authorities and provincial and metropolitan councils and local authorities respectively.

He submitted on behalf of the applicants that the democratic participation by citizens in government and by local communities in the running of the affairs of the areas they reside in is thwarted when the respondent invokes the powers in section 314 of the Act.

He further argued that the provisions of section 264 of the Constitution clearly seek to empower people at local level and enhance their participation in making decisions affecting them.

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