MDC-T on the ropes
… as Kasukuwere goes for broke
Nelson Chenga and Ray Ndlovu
URBAN councils under the dominion of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) are headed for more chaos as the ruling ZANU-PF government escalates its agenda to place them under its functionaries ahead of make-or-break general elections in 2018.
The Financial Gazette can report that between now and the 2018 plebiscite, city fathers in MDC-T dominated municipalities essentially have only two options open to them – either to play ball or fall by the wayside.
Either way, it is a zero-sum game for Morgan Tsvangirai’s party, which has been on the back foot ever since it came close to gaining power in 2008, when ZANU-PF lost its majority in Parliament to the MDC-T for the first time since independence.
ZANU-PF has found a wily enforcer in the form of Local Government Minister Saviour Kasukuwere, whose other hat is that of national political commissar for the ruling party.
As the party’s head of the commissariat, Kasukuwere’s performance objectives include aiding and abetting ZANU-PF’s power-retention strategies by mobilising grassroots support at the polls.
In order to achieve the party’s objectives, he is using his other hat as Local Government Minister to ensure that none amongst MDC-T functionaries stand in his way.
Those who dare to frustrate his moves will get their marching orders, creating room for ruling party apparatchiks who will go along with him.On top of ZANU-PF’s agenda is the fulfilment of 2013 election promises, as captured in the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation (Zim-Asset) blueprint.
One of Zim-Asset’s objectives is to rollout affordable housing for home seekers across the country.
Already, ZANU-PF has promised to make available land in urban centres to clear the backlog on the housing waiting list which stands at over two million people.
Tied to that, the party is also hoping to roll out vending stalls for informal traders and small to medium size enterprises to absorb thousands of people on the job market.
Through Zim-Asset, ZANU-PF is looking at creating 2,2 million jobs.
MDC-T-run councils are being viewed as an impediment to the achievement of these and other objectives.
So far, the country’s largest opposition party has been exploiting the new Constitution, which has devolved powers to councils, to sidetrack the Local Government Minister.
To dribble his way past the new charter, Kasukuwere is in the process of amending the Urban Councils Act (UCA) to support his agenda.
With ZANU-PF enjoying a clear majority in the National Assembly, the courts might soon offer no sanctuary for the MDC-T, hence assertions that its officials might soon be at the mercy of Kasukuwere.
Legal and parliamentary watchdog, Veritas, this week said Kasukuwere’s law amendment manoeuvres could best be deemed as unconstitutional.
“It is apparent…that the Bill is unsatisfactory, and quite probably unconstitutional, in several respects,” said Veritas.
Ever since the Constitution came into operation three years ago, the country has been waiting for the Rural District Councils Act (RDC Act) and the UCA, among other statutes, to be amended so as to devolve powers to local authorities and accord them the independence they are entitled to under Chapter 14 of the Constitution.
Veritas said the Local Government Laws Amendment Bill, which government gazetted on May 9, should have provided for this, but it didn’t.
“All it does is to amend the two Acts to allow for the setting up of a tribunal to deal with the removal from office of mayors and councillors,” argued Veritas.
“Local authorities need oversight from the central government, because both in this country and elsewhere some of them have proved to be incompetent, extravagant and corrupt. Nonetheless, the powers given to the Minister under the UCA and the RDC Act are excessive and unconstitutional. The Local Government Laws Amendment Bill does nothing whatsoever to remove or even limit the Minister’s powers.”
Ever since his appointment last year, Kasukuwere has set the cat among the pigeons by stoking fires in Gweru, Harare, Bulawayo, Mutare, Chitungwiza and Gwanda.
By 2018, Kasukuwere is set to create a record number of commission-run councils in the country’s history if his will prevails.
Despite outcries over his machinations, he has thrown caution to the wind, at times running afoul of the country’s Constitution.
Soon after getting into office, the combative minister announced that he would clean up all the local authorities where corruption and poor service delivery had become the order of the day.
While his mission appeared noble, the grand plan has been to destroy the MDC-T’s influence in its urban strongholds and re-establishing ZANU-PF control through the back door.
Gweru is already being run by a commission after its mayor and 16 councillors were sent packing over allegations of corruption.
Increasingly, Harare is slipping out of the MDC-T’s control.
Harare mayor, Bernard Manyenyeni was suspended on Tuesday after returning from yet another suspension for allegedly violating the UCA by appointing James Mushore as town clerk without first seeking approval from the Ministry and the Local Government Board.
Tuesday’s suspension stemmed from fresh allegations of failure to cause an audit of the city’s EasiPark and City Parking subsidiaries following alleged corruption in the entities.
Kasukuwere is also moving to shake-things-up in Gwanda where he is trying to reverse the appointment of Hlupho Mhlanga as town secretary.
His efforts have, however, suffered a temporary setback after Mhlanga successfully appealed to the Bulawayo High Court to strike down a directive he had issued in which he ordered the Gwanda municipality to re-advertise his post.
In Bulawayo, city fathers are awaiting with bated breath the release of findings of a seven-member investigative team dispatched by Kasukuwere earlier this month to establish if there was any wrongdoing in the allocation of stands and prime land to councillors.
The Local Government Minister has also dispatched chartered accountants, Ernst and Young to audit Bulawayo’s accounts for 2013 and 2014.
Any indications from both findings that may suggest corruption on the part of the city fathers, is likely to give Kasukuwere a perfect excuse for him to give Bulawayo mayor, Martin Moyo, and all the councillors marching orders.
The removal of Moyo would mean that the country’s two largest cities of Harare and Bulawayo might for the first time run concurrently without mayors, setting the ideal stage for ZANU-PF to regain control of the cities, which the party lost in 2000.
Analysts said service delivery can only get worse.
Dzimbabwe Chimbga, the programmes manager for the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Humana Rights, said the will of the people was being violated by the strong centralised power of government.
“The citizens suffer when a mayor is suspended for 90 days. There is paralysis of service delivery,” said Chimbga.
Academic and political commentator, Ibbo Mandaza, said the whole drama signaled that preparations for elections have started in earnest.
He said: “The only thing I can say at the moment is that it’s now election mode in place. They (ZANU-PF) are using service delivery as an excuse to do their things, but we don’t know whether this will translate to that”.
Former Harare mayor and lawyer, Muchadeyi Masunda, said what is conspicuously absent in the “tragicomic” battle for the control of Town House is emotional intelligence on the part of the two warring parties namely ZANU-PF and the MDC-T.
“It could well be that both parties are blissfully unaware of what it really takes to run a metropolis like the City of Harare whose operations: 1) affect the livelihoods of over 9 000 employees plus their dependants of at least six per employee; 2) are equivalent to almost 15 government ministries put together; 3) affect the basic needs of almost 4,5 million residents of Greater Harare comprising Harare, Chitungwiza, Epworth, Ruwa, Caledonia and Norton in terms of the obligation to supply potable water and provide health services; 4) include running two infectious diseases hospitals Beatrice Road Infectious Diseases Hospital and Wilkins Infectious Diseases Hospital which also double up as nerve centres for HIV/AIDS related ailments, TB and Ebola; 5) include running 14 polyclinics where over 2 200 babies are delivered every month; 6) include running 32 primary health care centres which provide ante and post-natal to womenfolk from all over the country; 7) include running 32 primary schools in the main high-density suburbs; 8) include running two major sewage reticulation plants at Firle and Crowborough; 9) include running three farms with a head of between 5 000 to 7 000 cattle at any given moment, with a potential to increase the head to between 11 000 to 13 000 if the farms are properly paddocked; 10) include maintaining and rehabilitating a network of tarred and paved roads in excess of 7 500 kms which is more than what you will find in the whole Democratic Republic of Congo; 11) include providing refuse removal services to over 28 housing estates ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous i.e. Borrowdale to Mbare!,” he said.
Masunda said the irony of it all was that central government contributes a big fat zero towards the cost of running the city’s multi-faceted operations.
“That has always been the case even well before the advent of uhuru in April 1980. In spite of that phenomenon, we have had and still have a plethora of Local Government Ministers who are control freaks. What we desperately need are men and women with lots of emotional intelligence and goodwill at the helm of the City of Harare as well as the Ministry of Local Government so that they can focus on the bigger picture issues as opposed to the puerile power games which are no good for man or beast,” noted Masunda.
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