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Govt threatens to take over councils

Local News
President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration has accused opposition councillors of running down councils. The Zanu PF government has in the past been in the habit of expelling mayors and deputy mayors in opposition-run urban councils.

GOVERNMENT has threatened to reintroduce commissions to run local authorities which fail to deliver on their mandates.

In remarks aimed at the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC)-dominated urban councils, Harare Provincial Affairs and Devolution secretary Tafadzwa Muguti, said government would not appoint an acting mayor in failed councils but replace them with commissions.

He made the threats while superintending over mayoral elections at the Chitungwiza Municipality on Monday this week.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration has accused opposition councillors of running down councils. The Zanu PF government has in the past been in the habit of expelling mayors and deputy mayors in opposition-run urban councils.

Appointment of commissions to run council business was commonplace during the late former President Robert Mugabe’s reign when he used former Local Government minister Ignatius Chombo to do the hatchet job.

For instance, the City of Harare had no elected mayor for more than two years after MDC mayor Elias Mudzuri was fired in April 2004.  Chombo’s predecessors replaced suspended mayors with acting mayors.

Muguti said: “To the incoming 27 members, I do not want any surprises or nonsense in council chambers. I don’t want to hear fights in council chambers, Zanu PF versus CCC. You have that bad reputation, Chitungwiza.”

He warned the councillors against neglecting service provision.

“If you repeat what you did last year, I don’t want to lie to you. This time around, there will be no acting. I will put a commission in place. I have warned you.

“I don’t want to hear fights. You have been elected and there is nothing to fight about. Work together as Zimbabweans. You can debate or argue, but when you walk out that door, you have a decision that benefits Chitungwiza,” he said.

Muguti also warned councillors against engaging in corrupt activities.

“There is a policy you had last year where you gave each other graves. Stop It. Free graves are outlined in the office of the Minister of State through social welfare. We have been doing this since 1980.

“In all your wards, there are social welfare officers. We know the poor people in your area. What you were doing last year, councillors identifying poor people and deciding who to dish out graves to. You think I did not know that some of you were selling the graves for US$500,” he said.

Muguti said councils should make all their resolutions public.

“When you see us arresting you, it is because you would not have been transparent with my office. The chamber secretary is there to guide you when you have your meetings. Don’t override him because he is your lawyer. If he tells you, ‘the law says don’t do this,’ don’t do it. This is coming with a very stern warning.

“We don’t do workshops for the ease of generating allowances. We do them to enhance each other’s capacity. So you would rather do one workshop for three days than a scenario where today you are in Kariba and tomorrow you are in Masvingo,” he said.

Accusing some councils of accumulating as much as 500 litres as fuel allowance, he declared: “All that is nonsense. We will not tolerate that because that’s abuse of office.”

Chitungwiza and Manyame Rural Residents Association director Marvelous Micheal Kumalo said commissions were not good for accountability and transparency purposes.

“The Constitution of Zimbabwe is clear that elected officials are accountable to the electorate and it also says local authorities are run by councillors directly elected by the electorate. That is why the practice and habit of hiring mayors from non-elected councillors was abolished,” he said.

“It is all meant to promote that elected leaders account to the electorate not otherwise. So my point is, an appointed commissioner will be accountable to the appointing authority and not to the electorate.”

He said residents associations were opposed to decisions made without residents' input.

“We do not want partisan politics to be pursued in the name of administration and supervision of our local authorities, mainly those run by the opposition movement,” he added.

However, Zimbabwe National Organisation of Associations and Residents Trust chairperson Shepherd Chikomba said he was in support of Muguti’s stance.

“We will support the establishment of commissions if these councillors fail again because we cannot just sit down seeing mistakes that were done the past 10 years. We are giving them another chance,” he said.

“We are worried that we are not going anywhere in terms of development. Councillors take being elected as a way to fatten their pockets.”

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