HARARE mayor Jacob Mafume says the overbearing control on local authorities by central government through the Local Government ministry is crippling council operations as the Zanu PF government has been blocking several projects.
In an interview with The NewsHawks reporter Bridget Mananavire (BM), Mafume (JM) also spoke about the terrible state of the roads, service delivery and illegal sale of land in Harare.
BM: What is your status, are you the mayor or you are on suspension?
JM: Well, I am still the mayor of Harare. I was under suspension, but my suspension expired. It was a suspension for 45 days wherein if there had been a case for me to answer, the matter would have been referred to a tribunal.
The 45 days have expired, they expired two weeks ago, no tribunal was constituted and therefore for all intents and purposes, I am the mayor of Harare as elected. We still have matters pending before the court, but our constitution states that someone is innocent before proven guilty. So therefore, there is nothing that bars me from carrying out my duties. I’ve had discussions on that with the minister of Local Government (July Moyo) and he is working out a few things. And as soon as he’s done we should be able to resume our duties in full effect, but for all intents and purposes I am the mayor of Harare.
BM: You said you are waiting for the minister to work out some things before you can resume work, should this even go to the minister and do you feel the Local Government minister has overbearing powers over council?
JM: It should not go to the minister in that regard, the suspension is finished and I should just simply report for duty. But out of courtesy because we have to have a good working relationship, we do that but I will exercise my right as defined by the law and he cannot interfere with those rights without abusing the law. We are guided by the operation framework and the law as it stands.
However, the situation with local government in Zimbabwe is a very tricky situation, in the sense that the devolution has not been given full effect. The first thing is that the ministry of Local Government acts as a supervisory body. The oxymoron is that you compete against a party which is Zanu PF and you win the mayoral race as MDC but, you’re then supervised by a member of the party you’ve defeated.
You’re supervised by a member of the party who competed against your agenda and he becomes the one who has supervisory board authority over you, the power to suspend and recommend the setting up of tribunals, that shouldn’t happen. We should have other mechanisms to deal with disciplinary issues of management of local government.
Secondly, the mayor of Harare is a ceremonial mayor. This is a big city, which is creeping towards three million people if you consider the greater Harare populations, that is Chitungwiza, Ruwa, Norton, Epworth, Mt Hampden, Caledonia and Harare South. If you aggregate all of those areas you will see that it’s almost a population of three million.
The population of Harare is bigger than some small countries like Botswana, Namibia, Gambia, it is almost bigger than populations of almost 10 countries in Africa and it is managed by a ceremonial mayor, a mayor who is supposed to be part time, not an executive mayor. That mayor is supposed to manage a city that has a road network that is longer than the road networks of other countries, that has polyclinics. We have a complement of close to a thousand nurses and doctors.
It has over 30 primary schools and some of the schools have enrolments of over 2 000. We employ around 1 500 municipal police, we are in charge of dams and of the biggest mechanical plant in the country, Morton Jaffray. The GDP of some areas like Mount Pleasant is bigger than the GDPs of certain cities. We are in control of the two largest infectious disease hospitals outside South Africa in southern Africa. The budget of Harare is bigger than that of other small countries, and that is being managed part time by non-executive mayor.
It’s unworkable and citizenship has to understand that you need executive mayors for the greater Harare area, and we are in charge of the biggest firefighting brigade in southern Africa outside South Africa and probably Angola. They removed executive mayors because Zanu PF was aware that it will not win the big cities and therefore it sought to take away the power of executive mayor because the mayor is elected, they put in appointed officials.
The other handicaps are that the minister appoints senior officials of all urban councils from grade three to grade one. So, the mayor and the councillors can only recommend, but the minister has veto power. So literally the executives are appointed by the minister. Then you have a situation where the budget that you come up with must be approved by the ministry. Then procurement, to procure things like tissue paper, is housed under the Office of the President. So there’s literally very little that you can do as council. To talk about roads, Zinara took over the issue of roads in 2009 and proceeded to destroy them. They have not been able to build a new road since 2009, when they took over the roads, all these roads that were in the urban areas were built by the cities and had been destroyed by Zinara through central government.
BM: But Zinara has been arguing that they have been giving councils money to rehabilitate roads. Has the Harare City Council not been receiving the money?
JM: If you look at the statistics, a kilometre of tarred road, if you look at the African Development Bank statistics, it’s anything between US$400 000 to US$600 000 to do a kilometre of tarred road, and they gave us less than that last year. The ZW$40 million they are talking about translates to about US$400 000, that is only enough to do about a kilometre of road.
The Harare motorists pay the bulk the licences because we have over 800 000 vehicles and you would expect the bulk of that money to be used in Harare. But what they’ve done is they’ve developed a formula where they spread out the money that Harare motorists pay and they make it as if it’s a national levy whereby it is then distributed to game parks, rural areas and other areas and it does not repair the roads which the Harare motorists are using. So it’s disproportionate, it does not make sense.
Zinara wants to build the roads in game parks with money coming from Harare motorists, so it is a bizarre arrangement, but the Harare motorists are suffering and our citizens have to pay more attention to some of these things and demand that the cities be given the right to get the money to use for roads.
BM: Moving to your arrest in November last year for allegedly allocating housing stands to your sister and a colleague, how far has that case gone?
JM: The cases are in the courts. We have been remanded, the police are investigating, or they’ve finished investigating. I don’t know at what stage they are but we wait for our day in court and we will be able to defend ourselves. The allegations are baseless but we will not pre-empt a matter that is sub judice, we will outline our defence as soon they finish the investigations. You never know, maybe after investigating they might come up to the conclusion that they were wrong, or they might want to continue. We have not had any indication of where they might be going.
BM: There have been many reports on the illegal sale of land in Harare and corruption allegations around land allocation. How are you dealing with this?
JM: There are a lot of issues around urban land. There are three types of ownership: the land is either owned by council, the state or private. Now what happened post the inclusive government (2009-2013) is that there was a creation of empowerment initiatives run by various ministries, women’s ministry, youth ministry, and so forth and they created what they called housing cooperatives.
These housing cooperatives were not registered with council. They were registered with (ministry of) Women’s Affairs and were named after Sally Mugabe, Tongogara, there is no housing cooperative that is called Morgan Tsvangirai, Judah Jongwe, Chamisa. Those cooperatives were then given state land, which they then invaded without paying to the state.
There is a law that manages cooperatives, but these cooperatives have not been sending audits, there has not been a check on whether they have membership. But they were given huge pieces of land and they proceeded to populate those pieces of land, without reference to council, without developing it. It is only now that we made the resolution that these settlements have to be regularised. But how do you regularise? There must be regularisation with accountability.
You have to look at what that land was supposed to be used for in the first place. If it was supposed to be used for residential, there is no point taking it from somebody and giving it to somebody else. It is for the government to work out the mechanisms on how it will be paid for the land. The council works out the mechanism where it is paid for the development, tarred roads, sewer, water and so forth. Where a school is supposed to be or a clinic is supposed to be, a common usage area, shops, recreational areas, they move the limited number of people that are in those areas.
We have people who invaded paddocks, where we are supposed to be keeping our cattle, we have over 3 000 people living on them, and if you go back you see they are Zanu PF-linked cooperatives, the same happened in Caledonia and Harare South. But what do you do? Do you just raze them down? No. Uou try and regularise. And some of these moves were done by Zanu PF to gain votes. I believe demolitions are a crime against humanity like the UN special envoy Anna Tibaijuka reported. So we need to deal with that in a more organised manner, in a more strategic manner. And we look at who benefited from that land and if the wrong person was paid, then arrests are made.
BM: But we continue to see demolitions taking place in Harare with council and government playing the blame game, what is really going on there?
JM: As the mayor, I am against wanton demolitions. You do not watch people building a lot of houses, and you then come and destroy people’s livelihoods. It’s a lifetime investment. The fact that you might have power today and sign a paper that says destroy, it doesn’t mean you need to exercise it. It has to be exercised a bit more circumspectly. So you have to follow a programme that allows for regularisation, that allows for compensation.
BM: Why then does council wait for people to build the houses, to only come in and demolish?
JM: Our hands are tied. I told you that I’m not an executive mayor. We control a police that does not have arresting powers. We can only put up notices. When people see others benefiting from random lawlessness, disorder and so forth, it becomes part and parcel of the DNA of people. And they prevent our people from doing their work.
If people get a cooperative, they go to the ministry and are allowed.
To settle on state land we cannot do much about it, we tell them to come to planning so that their plans are approved and get compliance certificates, but they go ahead and build.
Look, for example, we are stuck with Caledonia, that’s 30 000 stands on state land, over 100 000 people, no school, no shopping centre, no clinic, nothing.
No water, no sewer, just a huge, gigantic slum that has been allowed to emerge on state land. And they have got papers, leases from the state, saying they are allowed to settle there. What do you do as council? Be that as it may, they are Zimbabweans, we are where we are and we have to come up with a plan and implement it on how to deal with that situation.
BM: Let us talk about the recalling of MDC Alliance councillors. How has that affected council operations?
JM: That’s been a devastating and crippling effect on council operations. Over 24, that’s over half of the councillors, have no representation. They don’t know what to do if rubbish is piling up, sewers break, water pipes burst, they have nowhere to go, no one to tell, the roads, the schools, the clinics, everything. We have a vaccination programme that is supposed to be national, there are no councillors to explain to the people who elected them, who have confidence in them, to tell them that look, it’s safe to be vaccinated.
It has also crippled committees, there is barely a quorum. And that is why the city is collapsing.
The recalls have the effect of collapsing a city. People must call for by- elections, they must call for the representatives to go back. Harare was built over many years, but it’s easy to destroy. And if you allow a destructive situation to continue, you will need a lot more time again to rebuild what has been built rather than maintain.
BM: You spoke about rubbish, what is going on in the city, do we have enough vehicles to collect refuse?
JM: We don’t have enough vehicles in the city. At any given time, there will be 17 or 16 operating and we need a complement of 33 vehicles. We have got 16 vehicles stuck in South Africa because of the foreign currency situation. They were bought a long time ago, but have not been delivered. The city has grown, the population has grown, but our truck fleet has not grown.
The instability of the (Zimbabwean dollar) currency also creates a problem in terms of operational issues fuel, and repairs. Some are stuck in the workshops because of the lack of liquidity, and they cannot be repaired.
Secondly, we have issues with our dump site and the machinery at the Pomona dump site.
We need to create another bigger dump site for the whole of greater Harare. We don’t have a recycling culture in Zimbabwe, so everyone throws everything away.
Waste is wealth in other countries. In Zimbabwe, we are still old school. We throw away everything. We throw away paper, throw away plastic, throw away bottles. We behave like a rich nation, yet we are poor. What we need is to develop a recycling culture so that some of the things are not consigned to waste. There are valuable things that can be recycled.
BM: What is the situation with regards water supply?
JM: Our water situation is that of sheer incompetence by central government. The last dam for the greater Harare area was built in 1976. There was a programme to build dams. Kunzvi Dam was supposed to be built by now. Musamhi, Mudha dams were supposed to have been built by now. These have not been built because government ate the money.
Every year, Kunzvi Dam is on the budget, there is resource allocation. Zinwa is busy building dams where they are of no immediate use, in game parks. They build a big dam in Masvingo and say they want to export the water. Simply because it’s controlled by the MDC, you don’t build dams in that area. So it is weird policymaking.
Secondly, we have an old machine at Morton Jaffray. You will be surprised that these machines are not in a museum, they are now modern equipment for water treatment. We should have a water treatment plant in Manyame right now. Another thing, because we use lake Chivero for recycling, we use more chemicals that we ought to and they are expensive.
Our pumps at Warren Hills are sometimes down, sometimes there is no electricity, the pumps are very old. We have leakages, our piping system is as old as Methuselah, it has not been invested in. Sometimes the water moves using memory, because it knows it used to move in this direction, but there is no pipe, that’s why the water is sometimes dirty.
Zinwa took over water for a while and the infrastructure was left to collapse. We have not been allowed to invest in infrastructure, debts are forgiven, revenue collection is at a low point, there is little investment, huge infrastructure in cities requires a municipal bond, which we are not getting from government, but they are banking private hotel bonds.
BM: In terms of politics, people are saying the opposition has been made weak. Does the MDC Alliance have a plan?
JM: There’s been a conflation of government and the party, Zanu PF has captured the state and is using government infrastructure, the security sector, to act against the opposition.
We are witnessing the arrest of opposition members indiscriminately and no arrests of ruling party members. It’s almost like the MDC Alliance has been criminalised. The judiciary no longer recognises the existence of the MDC as an entity. The political financing Act, the money we were supposed to get, is being given by our competitor to somebody else.
It’s almost like conducting a second coup against the opposition, installing an opposition that they want, which is in the image of the ruling party. And this has been done through abuse of the constitution. It is actually the heaviness of the blow that shows the strength to the opposition. It is the extent of the abuse of state institutions that shows the strength of the opposition. The weak opposition is given trinkets, sweets, and money, because precisely, they are weak, we are attacked because we are strong.
The liberation of the country will have to be a collective effort. It is not centred around one person or one political entity, it is a broad civil society effort, because the very values that make Zimbabwe are the ones that are under attack. Yes, we will carry the heavy lifting, we are ready to do the heavy lifting as the opposition, but at this moment in time, at this particular crossroad that we have arrived at, there is a coup against our democracy.
There is a sustained assault against the values Zimbabweans live and want to be governed by, and the dignity of the working class, and the peasantry of Zimbabwe has been attacked, and it can only be solved by a collective effort, by a convergence of everyone in every sector in society, outside and within government to say look, this is not the Zimbabwe we want to live in.
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