Gweru mayor in “marriage of convenience”


Hamutendi Kombayi

GWERU — Suspended mayor Hamutendi Kombayi has joined residents to ratchet pressure on the commission running the affairs of the Midlands provincial capital notwithstanding their long-standing grudges.
The residents are agitated by a decision by the commission to take them to debt collectors for failing to pay rates, a decision they say had been annulled by the Kombayi-led council before its suspension last year.
Local Government and National Housing Minister, Saviour Kasukuwere, appointed a three-member commission to run Gweru last year. The commission has Tsunga Mhangami as chairman, Arthur Choga and Chomunorwa Parenyi as members. Their appointment followed the suspension of Kombayi and 10 city councillors on allegations of incompetence.
Kombayi and the councillors had to take their case to court, challenging Kasukuwere’s actions, with the High Court ruling in their favour by nullifying the suspensions.
Regardless, Kasukuwere has blocked their return and launched an appeal at the Supreme Court.
Now, Kombayi has joined forces with residents’ associations who ironically had pushed for his ouster last year.
Councillors and residents are planning to organise a demonstration against the commission on Tuesday next week.
The suspended mayor said he would not rest until he goes back to council to “fix problems in Gweru”.
“I am not going to rest until we return to Town House so that we can go back and fix problems in Gweru. The commission that was put in place is illegal and all their actions are null and void. I do not care if they arrest me on trumped up charges, I will continue to knock on council’s doors like a mad man until they allow me in,” he said.
Last month, the Gweru businessman was arrested for allegedly defrauding council of more than US$8 000.
He has denied the allegations.
Gweru Residents and Ratepayers Association chairperson, Cornelia Selipiwe, said council had been hijacked by outsiders who did not care about the welfare of residents.
“We never welcomed this commission because it is not serving the interests of Gweru residents because these people are coming from outside Gweru and do not have an appreciation of our concerns. Right now, they are taking us to debt collectors, something which was rescinded long ago during a full council meeting,” said Selipiwe.
“Therefore, as Gweru residents, we are saying (regardless of) political affiliation, let us march to Town House on Tuesday and reclaim our town from these ‘foreigners’,” he added.
Acting director of Gweru United Residents Association, Davison Muduba, said they would be part of the demonstration against council.
Council, through its lawyers Danziger and Partners, handed over some residents to debt collectors for non-payment of bills, irking ratepayers who felt the commission was insensitive to their plight and out to milk them to line their own pockets.
The local authority is owed over US$35 million in water charges and rates, a situation which has seriously compromised service delivery.
But rates defaults are not a problem peculiar to Gweru alone; all the country’s local authorities are grappling with non-payment of rates by residents, hard-pressed by an economy estimated to have an unemployment rate of 90 percent.

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