Harare City Council left dysfunctional

By ZBC Reporter

THE opposition MDC-T has recalled 11 Harare City Councilors in a major blow to the MDC-Alliance camp led by Nelson Chamisa.

The recalled councillors are: Lovemore Makuwerere, Gilbert Hadebe, Munyaradzi Kufahakutizwi, Simon Mapanzure, Charles Chidhagu, Keith Charumbira, Steven Dhliwayo, Barnabas Ndira, Chihoma Runyowa, Charles Nyatsuro and Enoch Mupamawonde.

MDC-T Secretary-General, Senator Douglas Mwonzora confirmed that the recalled councillors have ceased to be members of the party.

In a letter addressed to the Harare Town Clerk, the Minister of Local Government and Public Works, Cde July Moyo instructed the local authority to inform the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) about the vacancies that have arisen after the 11 councillors were expelled.

This development leaves Harare City Council with just 25 functioning councillors following the recall of the 11, including the deputy mayor.

This takes the number of vacancies to 21, a development that may trigger the temporary appointment of commissioners until by-elections are held.

While a council meeting requires just 17 councillors present to form a quorum, much of the work of the council is done in committees and depending on the distribution of the vacancies, there may be several suburbs without representation until by-elections are held.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) is hoping the Covid-19 pandemic will be sufficiently reduced, or other health measures can be put in place, to allow Parliamentary and council by-elections by December.

Normally, outside a public health emergency, these would take place in a matter of weeks after the vacancies.

Under the Urban Councils Act the Minister of Local Government and Public Works can appoint one or more commissioners for a maximum of six months, or until the vacancies are filled in a by-election, when “there are no councillors for a council area or all the councillors for a council area have been suspended or imprisoned or are otherwise unable to exercise all or some of their functions as councillors.”

Where there are some councillors still available to exercise some of their functions, any commission must consult these councillors before making any decisions.

There have been legal changes since the last commissions ran the city council when a minister could remove a council and replace it by a commission.

Under the new law, the commission is just there to keep the city running until a new council is in place. If the Minister of Local Government feels that a council is falling down on the job, then the minister can issue policy directions and take other action to ensure the council is doing its job.

Six councillors recalled in August are former mayor Hebert Gomba (Ward 27), Hammy Madzingira (Ward 10), Kudzai Kadzombe (Ward 41), Gaudencia Marere (Ward 32), Costa Mande (Ward 24), Happymore Gotora (Ward 7).

Harare City Council has been sitting on a major set of corruption allegations involving the sale of council land and the rezoning of public open space before that land is then sold, sometimes under contested circumstances.

This has seen some senior members including Town Clerk Eng Hosiah Chisango, and some councillors, including ex-mayor Gomba, arrested and taken to court.

Meanwhile, the newly elected Harare Mayor, Jacob Mafume has appointed Director Health services, Dr Prosper Chonzi as the Acting Town Clerk following the arrest of Hosiah Chisango on allegations of criminal abuse of office and fraud.