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Makwavarara divides govt

THE Harare Commission’s future hangs in the balance as central government has failed to agree on whether to extend its term or call for elections.

Highly-placed sources in the Local Government ministry said a serious rift had emerged between Minister Ignatious Chombo

and his deputy Morris Sakabuya over the fate of the Sekesai Makwavarara-led commission forcing Town House administrators to seek clarification on the future of the commission.

Chombo is understood to be pushing for an extension of the commission’s term while Sakabuya and ministry officials want elections to be held. 

Makwavarara’s term of office expires today — June 9 — amid speculation that it is not likely to be renewed after she fell out with central government over her extravagant lifestyle.

“Town House dispatched a letter to Minister Chombo on Tuesday seeking clarification on the future of the commission for administrative purposes,” a source said. Town clerk Nomutsa Chideya would only say: “The decision is solely the minister’s prerogative.”

Last week Sakabuya said elections for Harare must be held soon after the expiry of the Makwavarara-led commission’s tenure of office. “Government’s position is that if elections are due, then they must be held and it is not a Harare situation alone but in all other district councils where elections are due,” Sakabuya said.

Chombo on the other hand remained mum on the matter insisting that ministry officials would decide. Local Government director of Urban Councils Jacob Chikuruva could not be reached for comment as he was said to be on leave.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission was yet to respond to questions faxed to them last Wednesday on what preparations were in place for the Harare elections. ZEC spokesperson, Utloile Silaigwana, promised to respond but didn’t.

Sources said if the Harare Commission’s term of office was extended, Makwavarara was likely to be stripped of her powers in favour of some sitting commissioners. Zanu PF central committee member Priscilla Mpfumira and Viola Chasi have been named as top contenders for Makwavarara’s job.

Removal of Makwavarara from the post of chairperson would strip her of the privileges of using the mayoral limousine, staying in the mayoral mansion and other benefits such as shopping on council’s expense account.

Makwavarara, a political turncoat who arrived at Town House on an MDC ticket, replaced fired mayor Elias Mudzuri before defecting to Zanu PF, stirring outrage over the past few months with her extravagant spending.

First was the proposal to furnish the mayoral mansion at a cost of $35 billion, followed by the acquisition of a $104 million satellite dish she had installed at the mayoral mansion without approval. As if that was not enough, Makwavarara proceeded to spend over $175 million on groceries at the commission’s expense and is set to purchase a council house at a cost of $5 billion. Independent valuers pegged the house at $20 billion.

l Meanwhile, Chombo ordered the commission to sell the council house in Highlands to Makwavarara at a giveaway price, it has been established.

The revelation was made by Chideya in two reports in March and June to the finance committee.

Chideya states that no one was consulted in the matter that saw Makwavarara initially asked to pay $780 million.

The figure was revised to $5,5 billion after a public outcry.

Properties are being sold for up to $20 billion in the upscale suburb.

In his report (No 45 DHCS/06), Chideya wrote: “The instruction to dispose of the property to the sitting tenant came from the Minister of Local Government and Urban Development (Dr I Chombo).”

Although Makwavarara is said to be the sitting tenant, she has never occupied the property.

An evaluation report attached to Chideya’s submission to the finance committee noted the house was not maintained and in a state of neglect.

“The structure appears abandoned hence in a state of disrepair. One bedroom door is missing,” the report said.

It added that the three-bedroomed house has a staff quarters with two bedrooms and a carport, among other features.

Sources yesterday said commissioners were concerned at reports that they were behind the sale of the house to Makwavarara, but were afraid to publicly point out that it was Chombo’s instruction.

The commission is currently awaiting her written response explaining her use of money without council approval. — Staff Writers.

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