Editorial comment: Order must be restored at Bulawayo City Hall

The Chronicle

Bulawayo City Council has dominated the headlines for all the wrong reasons over the past fortnight.  

They have grossly mishandled the ongoing rehabilitation of the city’s water works.   This has condemned residents to two weeks of total waterlessness with frightening reports that the next two weeks would be no better.  Residents are unconvinced that the prolonged disruption in water supplies they are experiencing were inevitable, suggesting that a more nuanced, phased approach could have been a tolerable inconvenience.  

Initially, council told residents that the citywide water cut, effected around Tuesday last week, would last until Saturday, but we were all shocked when the pledge for restoration of supplies was not met.  On Tuesday this week it was announced that the city would be without water for an indefinite period.  Two days later we were told that the crisis would persist for a further two weeks.  

Residents are supposed to give the city fathers a pat on the back for having waited for so long to fix the water works that had not been seriously worked on since 1940, a staggering 79 years ago. Where was council all along?  

We reported on Thursday that MDC Alliance councillors, who dominate the local authority were, instead of putting their heads together to address a water crisis they precipitated, were concentrating on a triviality.  They are plotting to unseat the town clerk, Mr Christopher Dube not only unprocedurally but also for no plausible reason. The councillors are unhappy that Mr Dube has prevented them from getting involved in the distribution of the $5 million ward retention fund, procurement process, control of a sub-committee on allocation of stands and employment of community groups.

We have reported in this space before that in the MDC Alliance councillors in Bulawayo, as in other councils the opposition party controls across the country, we have a group of people who are desperately hungry.  They are largely people of little or no means at all who take their election into council as an opportunity to satiate their ravenous hunger for money and assets through corruption.  That is why they want to have an influence on stands allocation, usage of the ward retention fund, procurement and employment of workers.  They think that involvement in these key roles would enable them to grab stands, steal from the ward retention fund, and extract bribes through council procurement and to employ party members and relatives.  

Mr Dube told them that these are executive roles that must be executed by council staff and are off-limits to councillors who must be policy makers at the City Hall.  

On Thursday councillors Tinashe Kambarami and Silas Chigora violently ejected Mr Dube from his office when he refused to receive a document, said to be a letter “suspending” the council chief executive from work.  Kambarami, who is the deputy mayor, led the charge but the mayor, Solomon Mguni, who is away, expressed ignorance of the existence of the letter or grounds to suspend Mr Dube from office.     

“It’s true they came and I refused to accept their (suspension) letter so officially I continue with my duties as town clerk,” he said. 

“When they tried to hand me the letter, I refused and told them it had no legal basis and they became violent and started pushing me out of my office. I left when they called for backup of their fellow councillors and they locked my office and put a key blocker.” 

What Messers Kambarami and Chigora did is patently illegal and exposes the deep-seated rot we have always indicated exists at City Hall and other councils led by persons like them across the country.   

It has to be remembered that around 2012, dozens of MDC councillors were caught grabbing council houses from elderly residents in Harare, Bulawayo and other cities the party has controlled since 2000.  In Harare, the local authority secured a US$144 million loan from the Chinese Export and Import Bank in 2013 for the rehabilitation of its water treatment and distribution network but before the work could begin, the MDC-led authority diverted part of the funds to purchase motor vehicles for its executives.

 In September 2016, the Government suspended five Bulawayo councillors  – Charles Moyo, James Sithole, Gift Banda, Reuben Matengu and Mzama Dube  – for abusing their positions to acquire land at inordinately low prices, prejudicing the local authority of a total of US$654 930,78.

In addition, some MDC Alliance councillors in Marondera were reported to be illegally selling residential stands in a piece of land that might be secured by a private investor to build houses.

All these epitomise the state of affairs in all MDC Alliance-led councils.     

Residents must rise against the tomfoolery we are witnessing in Bulawayo so that it does not recur.  It is good that Cllr Mguni stepped in yesterday to nullify Mr Dube’s suspension but we suspect that he and his council still have an axe to grind with Mr Dube for standing up to their corruption and will attempt to remove him again in future.

If residents cannot, the Minister of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Cde July Moyo is urged to sort out the mess.  He has the authority to mete out severe penalties on the transgressors if they continue on their self-defeating path.  Doing that will send a strong signal that the Government does not tolerate corruption and disrespect for procedure at City Hall.