Local governance pressure group the Harare Residents Trust has castigated government for running down municipalities and councils across Zimbabwe arguing that its role should be kept at a minimal to allow residence establishments to run their affairs in terms of the law.
In a statement, HRT said in recent months, they had noted with alarm and shock government’s direct interference into the affairs of Chitungwiza Municipality and Harare City Council.
“Town House sources claim that the Minister of State for Provincial Affairs and Devolution in Harare Metropolitan Province, the Provincial Development Coordinator and the Minister of Local Government and Public Works have taken turns to issue written and oral directives to the Chitungwiza and Harare local authorities on the pretext of public interest and restoring sanity,” the statement said.
HRT said it was aggrieved with reports of councillors and officials who claimed to have been summoned to one of the three central government offices at one point or another facing intimidation while being issued directives to implement in their respective councils.
“They have all claimed to be fighting corruption that has taken deep roots in the systems of governance of the two local authorities.”
The HRT also argued that Local Government and Public Works minister July Moyo had since his appointment in 2018 dismally failed to appoint a Local Government Board to expedite finalisation of recruitment and dismissal of senior local authorities’ officials.
In terms of Section 116 of the Urban Councils’ Act, a seven-member Local Government Board must be established by representatives of town clerks, urban councils’ associations, municipal workers’ union and the Public Service Commission.
“Two others shall be appointed for their ‘ability and experience in public administration and who are or have been employed by a local authority or the Public Service for a period of not less than five years in a senior post.”
HRT condemned the failure by government to act according to his ministerial mandate.
The Harare City Council is operating without a substantive town clerk, chamber secretary, town engineer and directors for water, finance and human resources.
Several other line managers have been dismissed in the past two years.
HRT said recalls of 21 councillors and the death of another councillor has worsened the capacity of authorities and senior managers to deliver social services to the ratepayers.
According to the statement by HRT, despite being fully aware of these developments, Moyo had failed to appoint the Local Government Board to expedite the processes of filling the vacancies in council.
HRT accused Moyo for intervening on the side of the corrupt cartels at Town House, worsening the provision of social services and public social accountability.
“His interventions are seen as highly compromised. Reports abound that the Minister and some few of his colleagues at central government reportedly took the side of the former corrupt cartel of councillors that was recalled by the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party.
“It is widely speculated at Town House that Minister Moyo had personal business dealings with the former Mayor of Harare Hebert Gomba and they have continued with these deals working through the offices of the Provincial Development Coordinator and the Minister of State for Provincial Affairs and Devolution,” HRT said.
The residents trust said the interventions are seen as facilitating the hiding of the corrupt activities of central government officials involving the corrupt cartels reigning supreme at Town House.
“To illustrate the Minister’s vested interests in the affairs of Harare City Council, on 28 December 2020 suspended Mayor Jacob Mafume, Deputy Mayor Luckson Mukunguma and Ward 11 Councillor Anthony Shingadeya (Mbare) on charges of alleged gross incompetence and gross misconduct related to land owned by the City of Harare.”
HRT added Minister Moyo is rushing to cover his tracks and is wilfully violating the Constitution of Zimbabwe.
The Trust has also called on Moyo to uphold the rule of law and not assume absolute powers while covering cases of corruption at councils and municipalities.
While there has been cases of corruption in the City of Harare involving management, councillors, land barons and central government officials, the HRT wants the Minister to uphold the principle of the rule of law and not assume absolute powers that he does not have.