A businessman and lawyer, Masunda was elected unanimously by the Harare council in July 2008 for a five-year term after Emmanuel Chiroto, an MDC-T councillor, who had been previously elected executive mayor, voluntarily stood down. He accepted the position of deputy mayor.
Although there is still more than a year before the expiration of Masunda’s term, discussion around whether or not he should be given another term has already started. Masunda’s term also depends on when elections will be held. If they are to be held this year, the new councillors will determine whether to continue with him, or to choose a mayor from among themselves or from the civil society.
Some councillors do not want Masunda’s term extended saying they are not happy with his management style.
However, Harare Residents’ Trust Coordinator, Precious Shumba, said although Masunda has weaknesses like any other human being, he deserves another chance to enable him to finish projects he had started.
He said Masunda and his council still needed to find ways of getting revenue without burdening residents. He added that residents expected council to improve the city’s road network, supply clean water and manage waste properly.
Shumba was however, critical of Masunda’s performance.
“Masunda is a smooth-talker but a non-performer,” he said.
“He behaves like council’s legal consultant instead of playing a lead role in policy formulation.
“In most cases, he sides with city management and not the councillors who are the policy makers, for example in the Easipark deal and also on the councillors’ recommendation that the town clerk should be fired to bring policy reforms.”
Shumba added the residents expected the mayor to implement councillors’ recommendations. “Overall, we give him 60% on the positive and we expect him to improve his performance,” Shumba said. “We recognise that he tried to project a professional outlook to council business and brought his business experience which has helped council source resources, but that alone does not sustain council.
“There is still need for policy coherence at Town House and Masunda also needs to stop looking down upon his councillors because we elected them and they hired him.”
Masunda has been quoted as saying most of the councillors were not up to the task as they were unqualified for the various committees they sit in.
Shumba said Masunda had also acquitted himself well by resisting directives from the Minister of Local Government, Urban and Rural Development, Ignatius Chombo, who has been accused of interfering with local authorities’ operations.
Combined Harare Residents Association chairman Simbarashe Moyo noted the council had done a lot in trying to turn around the situation in the city.
“They found total breakdown when they got into the office and they must be recognised for doing something,” Moyo said. “He (Masunda) initiated a number of projects and should be given another term to see them through.”
But other residents said Masunda should not get a second term because he had failed to improve the state of the city’s roads which are littered with huge potholes. They said garbage continued to pile up in the city centre and residential areas while most traffic lights were not working. They said these issues must have been addressed a long time ago since residents started paying rates in US dollars.
Masunda last week said he would step down when asked to do so and would accept another term if granted the opportunity. He said when his council came into office, Harare was getting less than 300 megalitres of water per day and this has been increased to 640 megalitres per day. The city had also been able to provide 3 102 housing units and another 1 500 were in the pipeline.
Apart from this, he said council resurfaced several roads including Borrowdale road while the mayor’s cheer fund attracted more funding than the previous years, he said.
He said council managed to source 600 000 euros from Munich for medical equipment which lasted the city more than six months. The city also got medical equipment worth US$50 000 from his personal friends based abroad.
Masunda said he managed to source US$5 million from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a feat no mayor has achieved before. He is also negotiating with some financial institutions for the construction of the Kunzvi and Musami Dam projects.
‘I resuscitated ailing council infrastructure’
When he came into office, Masunda said, city’s health facilities had totally broken down, but he has managed to resuscitate them.
He cited the sourcing of a generator (which can light up the whole of Norton) for Beatrice Road Infectious Diseases Hospital as one of the main achievements. He also cited the sourcing of two fire engines for the city and the good relations with the corporate world which saw companies as Delta Beverages and Dairiboard assisting the city.
“I led this council with dignity and a degree of professionalism and that is why we lasted longer than any of the councils we have had in recent years,” he said.
“We addressed a number of issues, including provision of potable water and houses.
“Admittedly, we have not done as much as we are expected to do in terms of improving roads in high-density suburbs, but these things require money.”