Masunda, Manyenyeni – A comparison of their tenures as Harare mayor

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Former Harare mayors Bernard Manyenyeni and Muchadeyi Masunda
Former Harare mayors Bernard Manyenyeni and Muchadeyi Masunda

Precious Shumba

This article compares two mayors of Harare, Advocate Muchadeyi Ashton Masunda (2008- 2013) and Bernard Gabriel Manyenyeni (2013- 2018).

The article focuses on five key areas of their mandates. Their relationship with fellow councillors, unity among council management and councillors, their leadership styles and conflict resolution approaches, state of service delivery and relationship with central government. The issue of the relationship and communication among council officials, councillors and ratepayers will be fully explored in future articles.

It is argued that irrespective of the calibre of mayor for Harare, leadership styles have a major role to play in terms of building stronger councils. Until we have a fully devolved governance system, the role of central government in the running of our local authorities remains a contentious one.

It is evident that the success or failure of a mayor in the execution of their mandates is dependent upon the calibre of councillors at their disposal, their friendliness or hostility towards central government, and the implementation of devolution.

Current efforts at having devolution implemented face resistance from entrenched central government bureaucrats and policymakers who fear losing their current powers and authority. It is concluded that the differences in the way mayors are elected or appointed has a significant bearing on their quality and impact on service provision.

This article does not tackle in depth the state of service delivery under the two mayors. The next write-up will cover that as well as the scourge of corruption within the council system and the level of trust between the council and the citizens under their leadership. The two mayors are regarded as some of the best to have led the Harare City Council, despite their ceremonial positions.

This means that they did not have the executive authority to run the affairs of Harare. They did not have the powers to directly supervise management and oversee the implementation of council resolutions and decisions.

Their key roles included presiding over full council meetings and leading in finding solutions to the challenges bedevilling Harare. What mainly differed in their tenures was their leadership styles, political and social capital to harness the different interest groups and stakeholders to share the council’s vision.

Advocate Masunda has been a lawyer and businessman for a very long time. He sits on several boards of top companies in Zimbabwe including companies like Lafarge Cement and Old Mutual. He has also been involved in sports arbitration for some time. Manyenyeni is a business executive having worked in the insurance industry.

The two men were elected into their positions as Mayors through the Urban Councils’ Act (Chapter 29.15), albeit under different constitutions of Zimbabwe. Masunda’s tenure was largely under the Lancaster House Constitution that Zimbabwe adopted in 1979 following the Lancaster House Conference that settled the liberation struggle dispute and ended the war.

The Urban Councils’ Act (Chapter 29.15) was amended at the end of Masunda’s tenure. Manyenyeni served as Mayor under the 2013 Constitution, and an amended Urban Councils’ Act. He was required to be elected as a ward councillor first in order to qualify to be elected by other councillors as the Mayor. He was Ward 17 Councillor in Mt Pleasant. It therefore demonstrates that while the two mayors were ceremonial in powers and authority, they served under different constitutions and urban councils legislation.

The amended Urban Councils’ Act removed a provision that allowed a non-elected person to be elected as mayor. The amendment also removed the provision for the appointment of special interest councillors by the Minister of Local Government who were appointed during Masunda’s tenure. The Urban Councils’ Act (Chapter 29.15) is the principle law that governs the administration and governance of urban local authorities in Zimbabwe.

There was a Government of National Unity comprising the Movement for Democratic Change-Tsvangirai (MDC-T), the Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front (ZANU PF) and the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) at the time of Masunda’s election as Mayor of Harare.

Masunda was not a ward Councillor in the City of Harare. The Urban Councils Act allowed for the party with the majority number of seats in council to appoint an outsider to be elected by its councillors as Mayor. This provision saw the majority MDC-T councillors in the City of Harare voting in Advocate Masunda.

The same law also provided for the appointment of a number of special interest councillors, not more than a third of the total number of wards in a local authority. Under Mayor Masunda, Harare City Council had special interest councillors mainly chosen from among known Zanu PF officials. Harare City Council had and still has 46 wards.

Both mayors served under Zanu PF ministers of local government. Masunda had Ignatius Chiminya Chombo as the Minister while Manyenyeni partly served under Chombo before Saviours Kasukuwere was appointed to run the ministry. Under Chombo, Masunda kept the relationship more professional and progressive, although he successfully completed his tenure without any threats issued against him.

However, with Chombo at the helm, Manyenyeni was confrontational and wanted quick results. He would lash out on social media platforms as part of his own copying mechanism. Manyenyeni left a trail of enmity and tensions among key stakeholders. He was a man not understood by many, yet loved in equal measure by those who wanted central government to stay out of the affairs of Harare City Council.

When it came to their relationship with councillors, the two mayors at one point clashed with their fellow councillors over their honest comments on the low academic and professional qualifications of the majority among the councillors. Advocate Masunda lamented the lack of depth, working and governance experience, low academic qualifications and understanding of how an entity like the City of Harare had to be governed.

The majority of the councillors under Masunda were naïve and very partisan, always rushing to their party headquarters to have their differences settled. Similarly, Manyenyeni faced hostile councillors who regarded him as politically inexperienced in the opposition movement. A clique of councillors that was calling themselves the Guptas on five times mobilised and failed to have Manyenyeni removed as Mayor.

They considered him a major stumbling block to their hungry decimation of our wetlands and how to handle staff issues. Most of the councillors recruited their siblings, spouses, party supporters and offspring with no regard to council’s recruitment policies. For his resistance to their desperate agenda to make the City of Harare a party property, Manyenyeni survived five petitions for his recall, with the last one on 14 February 2018, the day Morgan Tsvangirai, then President of the Movement for Democratic Change, died.

An informed councillor who worked with Manyenyeni said: “The salary right sizing calls infuriated fellow councillors simply because 90 percent of them employed their spouses, siblings, supporters and offspring. Nearly all the councillors who signed the petitions were heavily conflicted on the key reasons they cited against Manyenyeni, including the political party’s provincial leadership.”

On their relationship with council management, Manyenyeni is said to have been aloof and relied on a few individuals who gave him advice on how to relate with each senior executive in council. Advocate Masunda on the other hand is said to have invested so much in knowing individual directors, and handled them according to who they were. This was evidenced by his push to have more councillors and council managers furthering their education, and strengthening the division of labour.

His critics claim that Advocate Masunda overly trusted in the technocrats than he did the councillors. That did not mean he entirely trusted in their competence, but he wanted to have a clear distinction between functionaries and councillors. It was his concern for their competence and skills that he secured scholarships for Grade Four managers in the City of Harare with mobile network giant, Econet for them to upgrade their qualifications and be of better service to the council.

A former senior employee in the City of Harare said the two men were some of the best to have graced Town House in a long time. While they served under different political environments, their  tenures were founded on their demands for transparency and accountability of officials and councillors to the citizens. They only differed on leadership styles.

“Mayor Masunda was a father figure who was dedicated to establishing a functional, effective and efficient bureaucracy at Town House,” the official said. “He had so much support of the business sector that Council had several investments coming through private investors’ funds.”

Two investments that are directly attributed to Masunda’s financial and political capital was the revival of the Harare- Munich Partnership where they secured some funds in Munich, Germany to replace underground sewerage pipes. From the United States of America, he got Bill and Melinda Gates coming in to build houses for poor Dzivarasekwa residents.

The project was initially targeted for Tsiga Grounds in Mbare but ended up being relocated to Dzivarasekwa after Zanu PF supporters objected to the project, claiming that it was designed to advance regime change agenda. That was most unfortunate because it deprived Mbare residents of an opportunity to have a massive housing project that would have transformed Mbare high density suburb.

Manyenyeni’s attempt at bringing investors to Harare were allegedly foiled by then Minister Chombo, who accused the mayor of ‘doing his own things’. In 2016, an international housing organisation, Affordable Housing Institute raised US$40 million for Dakar, Senegal. They wanted to support another African city, and Manyenyeni invited them to Harare for negotiations for the deal worthy plus US$75 million to materialise.

“After two days’ meetings with Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe officials and the Acting Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Local Government and Public Works, Colonel Joseph Mhakayaora gave the Mayor a verbal go-ahead with the project,” an official familiar with the deal said.

“Affordable Housing Institute offered US$150 million for the housing project in Harare. The mayor was reported to the Minister Chombo who accused Manyenyeni of doing his own things without the ministry, and trouble for Manyenyeni started. It marked three years of unending persecution and counter-accusations.”

A member of the Residents’ Dialogue, a think tank on local government established by the Harare Residents’ Trust, Engineer Bernard Musarurwa said the two men were ‘invited by the party leadership to be mayors in recognition of their acumen and capabilities to lead, and not as a reward for supporting the party leadership.’

Engineer Musarurwa said: “Both men lamented the calibre of councillors that they had to try and work with, something that made their tasks more onerous. This situation persists to date, making it imperative to improve the criteria for the selection of candidates for public office.”

Engineer Tawona Mutungwazi, the HRT Chairperson in Arcadia echoed the same sentiments. He said those who will apply themselves to existing institutional technical and administrative protocols will be a success story in the City of Harare. What he implied was that there existed structures and systems to deliver essential services, but these were not being fully utilised, thus the current chaos being witnessed in Harare.

Innovation and technology expert, Dr Denis Magaya said the comparison of the two mayors should be founded on their key result areas. These could include the rate of implementation of council resolutions, the performance of council committees, how they improved the cost structure and efficiency on key service delivery performance indicators like how much it cost to deliver a cubic meter of water to every household.

Dr Magaya said: “My expectation is that we should be able to measure them on which best practices they brought into the City of Harare. It is very critical to understand who built a better and stronger human capital team. Their human capital development, performance and governance are critical.”

A former senior Councillor said while the two mayors thrived to be professional, they were different in terms of their leadership styles. The councillor said the Masunda-led council cannot be compared with the Manyenyeni-led council. For a start, he said Advocate Masunda created a conducive operating environment for reciprocal respect and cooperation among the councillors and administrators.

“Masunda could help you understand each other and accept each other as policymakers and the executive,” he said. “Resolutions were implemented in time and as they were resolved by council.”

He entrenched our appreciation of the bureaucracy of council, how decisions were made, documented and implemented, following the law. He brought international recognition of Harare and opened a window for donors and funders.”

Under Masunda, service delivery improved. For example, there were massive repairs and replacement of broken sewer pipes, the former councillor said. He said water improved from zero to 450 megalitres per day. He said the central government respected Masunda and could not make unreasonable directives and changes. However, under Manyenyeni ‘it was war from first to last day from all angles’ which contributed to a sour relationship among key stakeholders, compromising service delivery efficiencies.

There was always conflict either with councillors, council management or with central government. This reinforces a widely held view that Manyenyeni was a leader who made decisions without hesitation, whether or not he was right. He stood by what he believed to be right. He had capacity to demonstrate courage, and he did not vacillate. However, with hindsight, Manyenyeni could have applied more wisdom in his handling of human resources issues, especially with his fellow councillors.

The ex-councillor said: “Manyenyeni was his own man. He did what he believed to be right and lacked this capacity to consult, so had no stable and good working relationship with his councillors, management, government and stakeholders.

In my honest view, he was controversial to all stakeholders, including his own party, but he knew what needed to be done. We struggled to unite him with his deputies, initially Thomas Muzuva (Ward 14, Kambuzuma) and Christopher Mbanga (Ward 8, Highlands). Therefore, the service delivery index dropped.”

Observers said Manyenyeni soured his relationships with his team because he often criticised them without restraint in newspaper interviews and at official council functions, thus a negative vibe persisted throughout his tenure.

When it came to the relationship between the councillors and management, there is a stronger sentiment among former and serving councillors and executives that Masunda took them as his children, and therefore invested more in building them at a personal level to be ethical and more professional.

Masunda was seen as more experienced and more open-minded, therefore had the full respect and cooperation of both council management and councillors. The business community also treated him with more dignity and always sought to chip in with any help they could get for the City of Harare.

Masunda encouraged both councillors and the executive to upgrade their academic and professional qualifications, thus through his efforts, he instilled a culture of business among everyone working with him. Consequently, decision-making was easier with conflicts and challenges easily ironed out without spilling to other spheres.

A major shortcoming identified of Masunda’s leadership was his ‘too much’ reliance and trust of his executive, that he left almost everything in their hands, therefore allowing cunning politicians to sneak in their agendas without him noticing it.

Resultantly, some have described him as elitist and divorced from the grassroots. This may be attributed to his ceremonial position. He spent most of his time at the Law Chambers where he had his offices.

Towards the end of his tenure, there were determined efforts to have him serve a second term under the same conditions. However, this failed due to his lack of political identity. This was despite his experience sitting on more than 20 boards of companies in and outside of Zimbabwe.

“Five years at Town House was insufficient to experience his full potential to bring transformation to Harare City Council,” an official said concerning Masunda’s tenure and leadership qualities. “This is a man so underutilised in our local government sector.”

A former councillor who served with both mayors revealed that the two served Harare with dedication, but only differed on their leadership styles and conflict resolution approaches. Manyenyeni favoured a confrontational approach in dealing with errant, excess and incompetent workers. His bravery to act quickly without due consideration of the law and consequences of his actions also made him more visible.

They also benefited a lot from Masunda’s diplomacy and wider political capital when he also handled the exit of disruptive council workers. Manyenyeni disrupted the system, even at the risk of facing a legal backlash.

“Manyenyeni took advantage of the transition from Chombo to Minister Saviour Kasukuwere to terminate the employment of former Town Clerk Dr Tendai Mahachi, Jim Kunaka, Cosmas Bungu and a host of other deadwood in council,” said the former councillor who wielded significant influence in Council under both mayors.

The two mayors handled their workforce differently. Masunda was a stickler for the law and would do everything by the book and through the bureaucracy until everything was done. The former councillor said Masunda took longer to resolve labour related issues, always insisting on following the law to the letter.

However, Manyenyeni rushed his decisions and always ended up with more enemies among Councillors and management. It worked in a way. Once equipped with facts and figures, Manyenyeni acted without hesitation or consideration of the consequences of his actions.

This is consistent with the scientific management and Weberian approach of cutting down on time wasting and wasteful expenditures. This also turned out to be his undoing when it came to building relationships with councillors, the council executive and central government officials. Every decision he made was influenced by facts and figures and so missed other nuances relating to handling people.

Despite that, his aggressive approach yielded tangible positive results through a rationalisation exercise where together with the Chairperson of the Human Resources and General Purposes Committee, Wellington Chikombo, then Ward 28 Councillor in Glen Norah A and Human Capital Director Cainos Chimombe, they successfully rationalised the council’s employment structure. They cut and merged some departments and retired some directors.

Manyenyeni was concerned with the huge employment costs and wanted to reverse that during his tenure. Emphasis in his administration was on establishing a system that delivered.

For example, Masunda left errant workers like Cosmas Bungu on the payroll of the City of Harare.  Bungu was a grave digger in the Granville Cemetery while at the same time he was the executive chairman of the Harare Municipal Workers Union which represented around 65 percent of the council’s workforce. This made Bungu very influential and powerful.

Council managers and executives feared reprimanding him or bringing him to disciplinary proceedings. So Bungu allegedly took advantage of that situation to nearly abandon his workstation and pursue labour activism while earning from council. Bungu had taken over the leadership from Florence Chitauro who had been appointed to the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), representing municipalities.

She later joined government, paving the way for Cosmas Bungu to be elected as the Executive Chairman of the Harare Municipal Workers’ Union, a very powerful position within council. Manyenyeni’s council was brave to dismiss Bungu from council.

In view of the two men’s approaches to human resources issues, one may argue that Manyenyeni was more successful in rationalising the council’s structure while Masunda stabilised the council by being the glue that bound the council management, councillors and the mayor together in their attempt to deliver social services.

Under Manyenyeni, rationalisation achieved three key objectives of removing deadwood among council workers and enhanced efficiencies, dealt with incompetent managers, finalised issues around the organogram which was top-heavy with the managers having a secret payroll. The early retirement age was pegged at 55 years and normal retirement age was 60 years under the stewardship of Manyenyeni. The issue of the secret payroll had also been a headache for Masunda, who also undertook an exercise to enhance council’s performance.

On their relationship with central government, Masunda seems to have had a better working relationship with the Minister than Manyenyeni. Well-placed council and government sources claimed that Masunda was respected in both Zanu PF and the opposition MDC such that no one really wanted to antagonise him. His presence on several boards of corporates also endeared him to labour, business and private sector which made his work easier.

Chombo made an attempt to suspend Masunda at one point but this failed. Manyenyeni crossed paths with Saviour Kasukuwere over the employment of a new town clerk for Harare. After controversial interviews, the City of Harare settled for James Andrew Mushore, a banker, to take over the position left vacant after the removal of Dr Tendai Mahachi.

Reports say Manyenyeni did not want any other person except Mushore. While Mushore was seen as capable, experienced and with the right mentality to handle the challenges at Town House at the time, Minister Kasukuwere rejected him. This escalated the fight between the Ministry of Local Government, National Housing and Public Works and the Mayor.

As a result, Manyenyeni got arrested on several occasions for defying Kasukuwere’s directives. It therefore shows that Masunda had a better working relationship with central government than Manyenyeni.

In conclusion, Manyenyeni fell short on his relationships with council management, councillors, residents and central government. His over-reliance on a few individuals within and outside council weakened his ability to gain the full support of those closest to him in decision and policymaking.

Masunda and Manyenyeni worked under different political contexts, with Masunda working duringthe time of the Government of National Unity (GNU) which provided a more favourable operating context. The two mayors scored significant milestones in the areas of human resources and the good will of some stakeholders.

Leadership styles to a larger extent determines a leader’s success in leading an organisation like the Harare City Council. While their leadership styles differed they had significant respect for the role of technocrats in reaching their decisions. Central government in Zimbabwe has to a larger extent contributed to the problems bedevilling Harare City Council.

  • Precious Shumba is the Director of the Harare Residents’ Trust (HRT) and writes in his personal capacity

Email: [email protected], Mobile: +263 772 869 294

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