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Mnangagwa’s inquiry into Harare precursor to impose commission

PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa’s appointment of retired judge Maphios Cheda to chair a commission of inquiry to investigate governance issues at Harare City Council could be a precursor to the imposition of a politically handpicked commission to replace elected councillors.




PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa’s appointment of retired judge Maphios Cheda to chair a commission of inquiry to investigate governance issues at Harare City Council could be a precursor to the imposition of a politically handpicked commission to replace elected councillors.

This will effectively allow Zanu PF to run the affairs of the capital city in an arrangement reminiscent of 2003 when Zanu PF official Sekesai Makwavarara took control of Town House as head of a commission that ran the affairs of Harare City Council between 2006 and 2008.

Her tenure was characterised by accusations of bad governance and brazen milking of the local authority.

Sources told The NewsHawks that ahead of the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) summit, which Zimbabwe is scheduled to host in August this year, the government is increasingly unsettled with the prospects of hosting rehional heads of state in a capital governed by the opposition.

“While on the surface it may seem relations of Zanu PF and the opposition CCC mayor Jacob Mafume are thawing, the reality is that the ruling party and particularly number 1 [Mnangagwa] are uncomfortable with the prospect of having to host Sadc leaders in a capital city that is run by the opposition,” said an impeccable source.

“There is therefore a strong consideration to replace the elected opposition council with a commission led by a Zanu PF stalwart. The plan is therefore to do that once the commission of enquiry produces its report that is most definitely going to paint a picture of bad governance by the Harare City Council.”

Sources said on the other hand Zanu PF officials will be happy to have a commission running the affairs of Harare council to push corrupt deals and further the asset stripping of the local authority, similar to what happened during the Makwavarara commission era.

The Makwavarara commission facilitated the takeover of Harare municipal water supply by the state-run Zimbabwe National Water Authority, resulting in the total collapse of water supplies and sewer reticulation.

As a result, thousands of people died of cholera during that era. The commission also recommended Operation Murambatsvina which displaced millions of people, inviting censure from the United Nations.

Makwavarara was accused of abusing ratepayers’ money for her luxuries at the expense of service delivery.

She was accused of illegally buying a council house in Borrowdale suburb for a paltry amount of then ZW$780 million instead of ZW$5.5 billion.

The commission’s term of office expired in 2008 and was not renewed. In 2019, Makwavarara was arrested at her Rafingora farm and charged with criminal abuse of office after allocating an US$80 million tender to Olgar Investments to construct Airport Road without due diligence.

“The issue of the Geo Pomona deal that had been railroaded by Minister July Moyo which opposition councillors tried to reject is still fresh in the minds of the Zanu PF top brass. They will therefore rather have a commission that gives a nod to all such deals at the wink of an eye,” said a source.

Harare has 45 wards. There are 14 women’s quota councillors. T he total number of councillors is therefore 59. CCC has 10 women’s quota councillors and Zanu PF has four. Out of the 45 directly elected councillors, Zanu PF has five councilors, while the CCC has 40. Immediately after the August 2023 elections, Harare Mayor Jacob Mafume. would, in the opinion of the President, be for public welfare,” the government notice reads in part.

Zanu PF got three wards while the CCC got 42 wards. The mayor, Jacob Mafume, is from the CCC, which means the city is in the hands of the opposition.

Harare residents say manoeuvres to install a commission must be stopped as it is illegal and a threat to democracy. Precious Shumba, the Harare Residents Trust director, said no effort should be spared in resisting the installation of a handpicked commission to run Harare and replace elected councillors.

“A commission to run Harare City Council will be illegal, unjustified and unconstitutional. Establishing a commission to replace our elected councillors will be regarded as a direct threat to democracy and will be resisted through all available democratic means,” Shumba said.

“The Harare Residents Trust continues to monitor developments and will not hesitate to raise the flag on any actions that reveal undemocratic intentions. Our expectation is that the Commission of Inquiry will make the right call to address the governance, administrative and corruption issues affecting the City of Harare.”

In the government notice issued on 12 May, Mnangagwa said the Commission of Inquiry’s mandate stretches from 2017 when he assumed power through a military coup.

“Whereas, in terms of section 2(1) of the Commissions of inquiry Act [Chapter 10:07], it is provided that, the President may, when he considers it advisable, by proclamation, to inquire into any matter in which any inquiry

“Now, therefore, under and by virtue of the powers and authority vested in the President as aforesaid, I do, by this proclamation — establish a Commission of Inquiry into matters of local governance by Harare City Council since 2017.”

The Commission of Inquiry is also investigating financial management of revenue generated through special purpose vehicles and other outsourced arrangements, reasons behind the failure to operate an Enterprise Resource Planning system, procedures of management, sale or lease or transfer of the local authority’s properties to private entities as well as the convening of council meetings.

The Commission of Inquiry also has a mandate to “investigate compliance with procurement laws, inclusive of disposal of assets and compliance with the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Act [Chapter 22:23]”.

The notice added that the Commission of Inquiry will “conduct visitations where necessary, summon witnesses, record proceedings, minute testimonies and documents, consider and manage all information gathered in order to arrive at appropriate findings and recommendations to the President”.

Last week, Local Government and Public Works minister Daniel Garwe told the National Assembly that Harare is the most incompetent council in the country.

Sources say this resonated well with Zanu PF’s plan to eventually appoint a handpicked commission to run the capital city.

Garwe expressed the sentiment while responding to legislator Benjamin Musweweshiri, who had queried the poor performance of most local authorities, especially urban councils.

In response, Garwe said corruption was of major concern in local authorities, leading to poor service delivery as well as failure to produce proper budgets.

“Some of the local authorities have even failed to produce budgets. They have failed to give us budgets and, as we speak, a clear example is Harare City Council. They have failed to prepare a budget. This is the level of incompetence within these local authorities,”

Garwe said. In July 2022, Mnangagwa, at the burial of the late minister of State for Harare metropolitan province Oliver Chidawu, promised to weed out Harare councillors.

“The current rot in Harare and other local authorities, under opposition parties, must be brought to an end. It is most unfortunate that the achievements and legacy of the likes of the late Engineer Chidawu have been ruined by the current crop of City of Harare councillors,” Mnangagwa said.

“These opportunists have no affinity to improve the quality of life of our people and instead continue to abuse their public positions for personal expediency. This trend should not be allowed into the future.”

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