Commission to run Harare as Kasukuwere moves to dissolve municipality
THE Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) dominated Harare City Council (HCC) will be dissolved in the coming weeks to pave way for the appointment of a special commission led by current acting mayor, Chris Mbanga, the Financial Gazette can report.
Highly-placed ZANU-PF insiders revealed this week that combative Local Government Minister Saviour Kasukuwere, who is now working closely with Mbanga, was waiting for the MDC-T to recall the Highlands councillor before dissolving council and unleashing a commission sympathetic to the ruling ZANU-PF party to preside over the capital city’s affairs.
Mbanga has been a thorn in the MDC-T’s backside ..
Ever since his appointment as acting mayor last month, he has been complying with the Local Government Minister’s directives despite these flying in the face of positions communicated to council by the country’s main opposition party.
Last week, Mbanga sent town clerk James Mushore on unpaid forced leave in spite of an MDC-T directive instructing councillors to stand by the ex-banker.
Mushore’s appointment in April has become the source of serious intrusions by Kasukuwere into the running of the capital city — deep in the throes of a deterioration in service delivery.
Within two hours of his appointment, Kasukuwere rescinded the decision, alleging violation of the Urban Councils Act (UCA).
The Act compels municipalities to consult the Local Government Board (LGB) when making senior appointments, although the new Constitution now gives them autonomy to make those decisions on their own.
Council has been adamant that Mushore’s appointment would not be reversed because it was constitutional. Kasukuwere responded by sending mayor Bernard Manyenyeni packing and in the process, transmitting clear signals to other councillors that he would not spare the axe if anyone stood in his way.
And last week, the city fathers had to trade their masks of bravado for a humble coat as they hurried to send Mushore on unpaid leave at the behest of Mbanga.
Mbanga has now attracted the wrath of the MDC-T top brass, which is contemplating to recall him.
The MDC-T Harare Province made the first step this week by recommending Mbanga’s recall from council. It is now up to the top echelons of the party to either endorse or decline the recommendation. Insiders say Mbanga will not survive a recall.
Mbanga, according to council insiders, is not losing any sleep over his possible recall as he would respond by joining ZANU-PF, sources said.
Council insiders said Mbanga has been assured by the Local Government Minister that when a commission is instituted, he would take over its chairmanship.
Asked for a comment, Kasukuwere had this to say: “We will cross the bridge when we get there. I cannot pre-empt what government will do at the moment. We handle each situation at the necessary time.”
Section 80 of the Urban Council’s Act empowers the minister to dissolve council and appoint a commission to act as council for an initial period of six months.
“The minister may appoint a commission to act as council if at any time there are no councillors or all councillors for a specific council area have been suspended or imprisoned or are otherwise unable to exercise their functions as councillors,” reads sub-section 1 of Section 80 of the Act.
Sources said the commission, which will operate at Kasukuwere’s mercy, is meant to pave way for the engagement of a new town clerk favoured by the ruling party.
Indications are that ZANU-PF has already identified current Bindura Municipality town clerk, Shangwa Mavesera, for the job, although he was not among the 140 people who applied for the post late last year.
Kasukuwere has, previously intimated that the job would go to anyone who is approved by the LGB, adding that “even if Mushore succeeds at the Local Government Board, he will be town clerk”.
In the coming days, the ZANU-PF political commissar is seen exerting pressure on the spineless city fathers to accept a forensic audit of council’s businesses that include farms, nurseries, real estate and parks as part of a plot to find something amiss that would justify his actions.
Kasukuwere also wants a skills audit for councillors.
History could repeat itself if Kasukuwere proceeds to appoint a Mbanga-led commission.
In 2004, the then Harare executive mayor, Elias Mudzuri, was fired by Ignatius Chombo, then local government minister, and was replaced by his then deputy, Sekesai Makwavarara, who led a commission that was set up soon after Mudzuri’s ouster.
Makwavarara would be expelled from the MDC and defected to ZANU-PF immediately afterwards.
The MDC-T, which parents HCC, has hit out at Kasukuwere, saying his moves were nothing but attempts by ZANU-PF to regain control of Harare by dismissing an elected council and replacing it with pro-ruling party commissioners.
The MDC-T is banking on the new Constitution to prevent Kasukuwere’s manoeuvres, particularly section 278 of the charter, which states that a minister can only suspend councillors after proven cases of gross incompetence, mental or physical incapacity, gross misconduct, criminal conviction and wilful violation of the law.
“In terms of section 278 of the Constitution, Kasukuwere has no power to unilaterally dissolve any local authority.
“An act of Parliament is yet to be enacted that will harmonise the existing Urban Councils Act to the new Constitution. So in the event that Kasukuwere decodes to subvert the Constitution, as he is apparently fond of doing, the MDC-T will take appropriate legal action.
“We have in fact filed a Constitutional Court application in which we are seeking to have 12 provisions of the law repelled,” said MDC-T spokesman, Obert Gutu, a practising lawyer.
Since his appointment to the Local Government portfolio, Kasukuwere has not made a secret of his intention to break up councils that do not capitulate to his demands.
He has not let a single council decision pass without poking his nose into it.
It is understood that ZANU-PF did not want Mushore for the job as he is closely related to the late former army general, Solomon Mujuru whose widow, former vice president Joice Mujuru was expelled from the ruling party on allegations of plotting to unconstitutionally unseat President Robert Mugabe from power.
The former vice president is now leading her own opposition party, Zimbabwe People First, and has vowed to dislodge President Mugabe from power come 2018 general elections.
Kasukuwere is understood to be under ZANU-PF instruction to make sure Mushore doesn’t return to Town House.
In an interview, Mushore appeared to suggest that he was being treated unfairly for his relationship with the Mujurus.
“If he (Kasukuwere) has issues with me, he should just tell me,” he said.
“You don’t choose your relatives. I was related to the late general Mujuru, something which I have great respect for. I had a good relationship with him, but that doesn’t mean I supported his politics.
“Being in this job, one is serving all the residents of the city and not members of just one party. I am not a member of any party and my own personal politics has nothing to do with this job,” he said.
But Kasukuwere said the issue was being needlessly politicised.
“People should not dramatise and politicise the situation. Let’s just respect the processes we have,” said Kasukuwere, who ironically is already regarding Mbanga as leading a commission.
“We are happy that the Mbanga commission has done the right thing (suspending Mushore),” said the abrasive minister.
He said he was closely following events at Town House and would make sure the law is followed.
“The law is the law,” he said, adding: “The process (of hiring the town clerk) must be carried out in terms of the law.
“There is no way as the Executive we can allow them to disregard the laws of the country. If they chose to defy the law, as they are intending to do, then we will meet them along the way.”
He insisted that his actions were done legally and that the UCA, on whose premise he rescinded Mushore’s appointment, remains operational until it is annulled by the Constitutional Court.
He also contended that individual interpretations of the Constitution are not valid unless there is a Constitutional Court verdict to that effect.
The MDC-T has since filed a Constitutional Court application seeking to have at least 12 provisions of the Act, particularly those giving the minister sweeping powers to interfere with the affairs of local authorities, nullified.
Kasukuwere has become infamous for taking decisive action against councils that disobey his orders.
Last year, soon after his appointment as Minister of Local Government, he gave marching orders to the entire Gweru council for resisting his demands.
Although the High Court later ruled that Kasukuwere had no powers to fire councillors as it is the duty of an appeals committee which is yet to be put in place, the Hamutendi Kombayi-led Gweru City Council has never set foot at the Midlands Town House.
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