Harare City Council: A ticking Time Bomb

A disaster of unprecedented proportions is looming at the capital city of the country, Harare. The effects of the collapse will be felt by the whole country for a long time to come.

1) Governance
Since March 2020, Harare has lost 24 democratically elected MDC Alliance Councilors to illegal recalls by Khupe and Mwonzora in cahoots with Zanu PF.

In that period, four (4) Full Council meetings were disrupted by the police and the so called Special Anti-corruption unit in Mr. Mnangagwa’s office headed by his nephew Thabani Vusa Mpofu. The same disruption happened in Chitungwiza Municipality.

In all cases, the Councilors, officials who got arrested during these Full Council meetings got released without charge after being held for long hours at Harare Central Police Station.
Such harassment did not spare Councilors attending Committee meetings. Many Committee meetings and Full Council meetings flopped several times due to failure to have a quorum and fear of being harassed or arrested. Council Chamber is like Parliament, no one should be arrested or disturbed while in the Council Chambers.

The Mayor, Deputy Mayor & Town Clerk all are on suspension. Therefore council is unable to do either Committee or Full Council meetings. The Mayor or Deputy Mayor is the only office mandated to appoint an Acting Town Clerk. The Town Clerk is the Chief Signatory of Council accounts and we can’t have three people acting on Town Clerks position within three months. We are talking of a position which is supposed to safeguard residents’ money, the Chief Accounting Officer of council.

2) Staffing
Currently, Harare City Council has only *(3)* three substantive Directors out of a possible total of eight *(8)* but one Director of Education, Housing and Social Amenities is on suspension meaning we have only two substantive Directors at work who is Director of Works and Director of Health.
Harare City Council has already done its work of confirming the vacant Directorship post but the Ministry of Local Government is yet to confirm. Failure to act is because the Minister of Local Government who is supposed to constitute the controversial Local Government Board is yet to do so. It is close to 5 years now without the Local Government Board.

The rest of the Directors are working in an acting capacity as a direct result of the harassment by the police and are afraid to make decisions.  The state of affairs is a result of the disfunctionality of the Local Government Board, a board that finalizes the appointment of senior Council staff on behalf of the Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Mr. July Moyo.

The Town Clerk, Engineer Hosiah Chisango, is on suspension. In the absence of a Mayor and Deputy Mayor no one can assume the position of Acting Town Clerk.  An acting Town clerk can only be appointed by the Chairperson of Council, in this case the Mayor.

3) The results
The state of affairs at Harare, is a direct result of the unnecessary and illegal recalls of MDC Alliance Councilors by the by Khupe and Mwonzora. In total Mwonzora recalled 22 MDC Alliance Councilors and the other two were occasioned by death.

Among those recalled were, The Mayor Cllr Gomba and his deputy, His Worship Mupamawonde. Six of the eight committee chairpersons were recalled as well. Sadly, July Moyo suspended the new Mayor His Worship Cllr Jacob Mafume and his Deputy, Councilor Mukunguma thus bringing down the service delivery apparatus at Harare.

4) The Consequences
The result of all the actions of central government and Mr. Mwonzora is a total handicapped city governance system.

Massive asset stripping and property looting will happen in the absence of the checks and balances and oversight provided by the Councilors both in committees and in full council. This is a huge disaster which future forensic audits will confirm.

Land will be corruptly disposed of and the case of unplanned settlements will sprout up uncontrollably. Allocation of land was stopped while more illegal demolitions have been promised by the Provincial Development Coordinator. They is no logic in demolishing houses while stopping proper allocation of stands. Where will these people go?

Contracts for water treatment chemicals and other materials including transfers from central government will all find their way into the deep and bottomless pockets of the well-heeled and politically connected, corrupt Zanu PF cartels.

New models of service delivery such as the management of parking will be taken over and destroyed by Zanu PF and will be driven to the ground.

Solution
  1. The Minister of Local government must immediately stop interfering with the activities at Harare and let the City to employ qualified managers and Directors.
  2. The Provincial Development Coordinator, Mr. Muguti should stop giving illegal orders to Council, causing disruption of Council meetings and let Council sit and exercise its oversight role on staff and make decisions for the good of the people.
  3. The Minister should lift the suspension of Mayor Mafume and His Deputy, we simply cannot afford to set Harare on autopilot for a single day without unbearable consequences.
  4. Alternatively, the disciplinary processes should be completed expeditiously. The Mayor, who we know is innocent can get back to work.
  5. The gap caused by the illegal recalls of councilors is yawning widely. This has to be filled as a matter of urgency. Consequently, the illegal recalls should be reversed or by-elections should be run as soon as the COVID19 challenges are manageable. And these can be done with strict adherence to the World Health Organisation recommended protocols. Ironically failure to plug this yawning gap can lead to more deaths to Cholera and other gastrointestinal diseases which thrive during and post periods of heavy rains.
  6.  All councilors, and staff who have been barred from going to council should have their cases expeditiously dealt with at the courts or in internal processes so as to bring matters to finality for the good of council and the people. Weaponizing law to score cheap political points should just stop forthwith. No Councilor should be arrested or charged for simply attending a Committee or Full Council meetings.
  7. A timeline for bringing back normalcy to the sunshine City must be sculpted and implemented. We cannot afford even another minute with this governance situation at the Sunshine City. The consequences are just too ghastly to think of.
A detailed exposé of deliverables and work in progress will be made in the next submission showing clearly the damage and disruption caused by Mwonzora and Zanu PF’s illegal recall of democratically elected MDC Alliance councilors.

Sesel Zvidzai
Secretary for Local Government and Rural Development*