Most local authorities in the country are run by MDC-T mayors and councillors. Chombo’s deputy Sesel Zvidzai said the minister has suspended or dismissed eight mayors and 16 councillors since 2009 in what he described as a strategy to destabilise the councils so that the local authorities fail to perform to residents’ expectations ahead of elections this year or in 2013.
Zvidzai said most of the suspensions or dismissals were not only partisan but unlawful and unprocedural. “The ultimate goal is to create an impression of failure for these councils,” said Zvidzai. “Chombo hopes very foolishly that this strategy will harvest some votes for exceedingly unpopular Zanu PF at the next elections.”
Among the mayors that have either been suspended or dismissed by Chombo, are Brian James of Mutare, Tinashe Madamombe of Bindura, Lionel de Necker of Gwanda and Zvi-shavane town council chairman Alluwis Zhou.
But Zvidzai said: “To prove beyond doubt that these dismissals are unfair, illegal, immoral, cruel and selfish, Chombo has lost most challenges in the competent courts of this land where councillors dared to challenge the dismissals. He has, however vexatiously, appealed against the judgements just to make sure that the councillors’ return to office are delayed.”
He said service delivery had suffered greatly because of Chombo’s interference in local authority issues. “For example, is it not coincidental that the epicentre of typhoid is wards which have no representation as a result of the dismissal of the ward councillors?” he said.
Harare City Council was the biggest casualty, where seven councillors were dismissed, followed by Rusape with five and then Banket with two. Chombo, who was not answering his mobile phone yesterday, has on several occasions accused most of the mayors and councillors of corruption or gross mismanagement of the local authorities.
But Zanu PF spokesperson, Rugare Gumbo, denied that his party aimed to decimate MDC-T run councils ahead of elections. “Minister Chombo is the best person to answer that because Zanu PF, as a party, does not have such a strategy or policy,” said Gumbo. “We believe in transparency and good governance in the running of council affairs.”
Pressure group wants chombo’s wings clipped
Meanwhile, a Bulawayo-based pressure group has appealed to Parliament to stop Chombo from interfering with operations of local authorities. In a letter addressed to the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Local Government committee chairperson, Lynette Karenyi, the Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association (BPRA) coordinator Rodrick Fayayo, pleaded to the committee to stop Chombo’s alleged victimisations of mayors and councillors.
“It is BPRA’s contention that the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Local Government should act as a check and balance on the operations of Minister Chombo as he seems to be on a free reign targeted at municipalities which have refused to bow to his whims and inconsistencies,” wrote Fayayo.
He said while BPRA agreed that councils must be supervised, “Chombo’s actions are being driven by political motives as opposed to the quest for transparency and accountability”.