ZANU PF and the MDC have agreed to scrap the post of executive mayor in towns and cities in the ongoing Sadc-initiated talks, the Zimbabwe Independent heard this week.
Sources privy to the talks said the parties agreed to
revert to the old system of ceremonial mayors.
Zimbabwean cities used to be run by ceremonial mayors elected from councillors until 1996 when the government amended the Urban Councils Act. The town clerks then used to enjoy sweeping powers.
The sources said the negotiating parties agreed that local authorities used to function better when they were being run by town clerks employed by the local authorities on a professional basis.
Observers however said the MDC was duped by Zanu PF, which wanted to win back urban councils where it has performed dismally in past elections. Once they revert to ceremonial mayors, governors appointed by the president would take over control of local authorities, weakening the opposition’s hold in cities. Most cities were controlled by MDC councils before government interfered, suspending and firing most of the mayors.
The harassment was believed to be part of a plan orchestrated by the ruling party to usurp control of the urban centres, which have been the MDC’s stronghold.
The MDC seized control of Harare, Bulawayo, Victoria Falls, Gweru, Masvingo, Gwanda and Kariba in municipal elections after 2000.
Zanu PF then created the posts of governors for Harare and Bulawayo in a bid to neutralise the powers of executive mayors.
In Harare, elected executive mayor Elias Mudzuri was dismissed on allegations of incompetence and mismanagement. He was replaced by a political turncoat Sekesai Makwavarara.
In Mutare, the same allegations were levelled against another elected mayor, Misheck Kagurabadza, who was replaced by a government-appointed commission. In Chitungwiza Misheck Shoko faced the same fate.
In Bulawayo, Local Government minister Ignatious Chombo has tried on several occasions to oust executive mayor Japhet Ndabeni Ncube, who is often at loggerheads with Bulawayo Metropolitan governor, Cain Mathema. — Staff Writer.