Former Economic Planning and Investment Promotion minister Tapiwa Mashakada is in the running to become Harare’s next town clerk after he emerged tops in interviews that were conducted recently.
By RICHARD CHIDZA
He is one of the three candidates now being considered by the government for the top post.
Mashakada (TM), a top MDC-T official, told our senior reporter Richard Chidza (RC) in an exclusive interview that he had big plans for the capital city.
Below is the full interview.
RC: You are one of three candidates who were recently interviewed by the Local Government Board for possible appointment as Harare town clerk. Why do you think you are the right candidate?
TM: For a very long time, the City of Harare has been degenerating into a haphazard city with no semblance of town planning.
This has been partly caused by rural to urban migration but in the main, this situation has been caused by a do-nothing management.
Previous town clerks had no clue that Harare on its own is an economy that requires leadership and good corporate governance practices.
I bring a wealth of experience in public policy, labour relations and business acumen.
I am a professional finance guru and corporate leader in my own right with a strong background in budgeting, risk control and municipal development finance.
I am a game-changer and incorruptible person who is going to rally all stakeholders around the goal of service provision.
Being a former minister of Economic Planning and Investment Promotion, surely I will raise the profile of this beautiful city and move it towards a world class city by 2025.
Of course, all this will be possible with team work, stakeholder support and resource mobilisation (which is my area of strength).
RC: Do you not think the fact that you are an active politician makes you a conflicted person, let alone one from the opposition?
TM: The position of town clerk is an administrative position that requires certain key competencies that I possess in abundance.
Harare needs a goal getter like me. This position must never be politicised.
Harare residents belong to different political persuasions and the right approach is to serve the best interest of ratepayers by ensuring they get efficient and affordable services from Harare City Council.
RC: Local Government minister Saviour Kasukuwere has been clear that you are not allowed “by law” in his words to take up the position of town clerk. What is your response?
TM: To my knowledge, there is no law that bars me from occupying the position of town clerk.
I am a Unisa [University of South Africa] law student and I have perused the Constitution and the Urban Councils Act. I am satisfied that I qualify.
RC: Are you willing to abandon your political position and constituency?
TM: This question is premature because as I speak right now, I don’t have any employment contract with the City of Harare. At this stage your question is not germane.
RC: Now, let us say the Local Government Board in its wisdom decides to appoint Tapiwa Mashakada as Harare town clerk, what is your plan in your first 100 days in office?
TM: Harare City Council needs a rapid results-based transformation plan.
My plan focuses on traffic decongestion, rehabilitation of roads and building flyovers across the city.
I have a solid plan for solid and liquid waste management that is based on sustainable ecosystems.
For example, the Pomona Dump Site can be a good source of biogas energy only if waste is separated and renewable energy solutions are employed.
The Morton Jeffrey Water Treatment Plant is antiquated that is why it breaks down most of the time.
I will invest in a new modern water treatment plant and ensure that Harare residents get clean water that can pass the World Health Organisation standards.
Right now residents have no confidence in Harare water. It is dirty. Linked to water supply, I will engage government and investors so that Kunzvi Dam is constructed.
From Kunzvi the water will be fed into the Don Brooke, Greendale and Letombo Park Reservoirs. I tell you this will see northern suburbs getting tape water.
This project will not take more than three years to complete. My other plan is to address the housing backlog and enforcing town planning and building by-laws.
You cannot have a situation where people build on graveyards and wetlands under the cover of political patronage. That must be stopped.
I am not here to witch-hunt but to make sure that all irregular settlements are regularised in terms of the country’s laws and Harare’s by-laws.
But most importantly, Harare is running out of building space. We will do apartments to save space.
No building plan will be approved if it is not environmentally fit. I want to see a green city. My covenant with residents is that no house in Harare will be without running water or electricity.
No more sinking of boreholes next to septic tanks. Rooftop solar panels will be a must. I have grand plans to make Harare a beautiful and clean city.
Informal traders and vending markets with ablution facilities and water will be designated. The economic situation has caused all these problems of vending but politicians too are culpable.
That is why it is important to engage vendors associations in the process of moving vendors. At the end of the day you cannot have the whole city being turned into a vending city.
We have to enforce the law but also provide alternative vending sites. As town clerk, I will mobilise resources in order to clear salary backlogs of all council workers within my first 100 days.
After that, a comprehensive human resources audit will be carried out in order to right size employment costs. Ghost workers will be flushed out from day one.
Residents will not pay rates if they do not get efficient services, so it’s important for Harare City Council to up the game. And that is one of my key responsibilities.
Good financial management is key to the turnaround of the city. Focus will be directed towards expenditure control and tightening public procurement. In fact, all public procurement will be adjudicated by an external audit firm.
Residents associations and communities will play a critical law in the running of the city. Harare is an economy and it is important to make sure that the private sector is roped in through public-private partnerships.
I have plans to grow the city and strengthen its business development unit.
I will also strengthen the budget by floating a municipal development bond in consultation with the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe.
The public health delivery system will be overhauled to ensure that council health centres become centres of excellence with enough personnel, drugs and equipment.
I could go on about areas that need urgent attention. Harare needs a plan and I have one.
RC: You have talked about stopping haphazard developments in the city, but will you get political buy-in given the fact that councillors from your party MDC-T are reportedly involved?
TM: Urban housing development must be planned with all stands serviceable. The legacy of past administrations is now what you call haphazard developments sprawling across Harare.
I am not sure where you get the impression that councillors are involved because you don’t mention land barons.
The policy of council and its by-laws and building provisions must be adhered to.
I will work with the ministry of Local Government and councillors to sort out the mess.
RC: Harare also remains a political battleground in Zimbabwe. Do you think you have the temperament to handle the pressure that comes with running the city?
TM: How can a whole former minister fail to absorb the pressure? I have regional and international experience as a problem solver.
I have run successful organisations, check my curriculum vitae.
In a new management style, work is shared and delegated such that the town clerk does not become the alpha and omega. It is easy becoming busy but being un-strategic.
RC: Recently, President Robert Mugabe spoke against the growing number of vendors who have literally invaded the city’s roads, do you have a plan to change the situation?
TM: Politicians have been meddling in the affairs of the city and promoting lawlessness in order to gain political mileage. That is wrong.
So when the president also adds his voice on the vending issue, it makes the work of law enforcement agents easier. But vendors have to be engaged and removed with a plan.
I am confident that such a relocation plan already exists. Remember that vendors have invaded the city not out of their own volition but because of poverty and unemployment. The long-term solution is industrialisation.
RC: Can you comment on claims that you have criminally abused your authority to commission affidavits on behalf of residents in your Hatfield constituency who want to register to vote?
TM: I am being subjected to what I strongly suspect to be politically-motivated arrests over flimsy allegations of putting an unsigned stamp on my VR9 affidavits forms only.
I am a law-abiding citizen and I have not violated any laws of Zimbabwe. Zanu PF MPs and chiefs [traditional leaders] are actually putting a stamp, and pre-signing affidavits forms and registering people, but why are they not being arrested?
The law is being applied selectively. I have no doubt some big heads in Zanu PF are masterminding this malicious harassment in order to prejudice me.
Luckily for me, I always try to observe the law in all my actions.