Harare mayor wants second bite

HARARE - Under his watch, Harare City Council has festered into a haven for corruption and poor service delivery. But that is not stopping mayor Muchadeyi Masunda from dreaming of another term after five years at the helm.

Shopped from outside party structures by the MDC council, Masunda came with weighty credentials and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai receiving kudos for dropping partisan political appointments to go for a man of substance.

What with Masunda’s impressive CV as an accomplished businessperson chairing some of the top companies operating in the country.

Then, many said his appointment would help stop the rot that had characterised successive councils and commissions appointed by meddlesome Local Government minister Ignatius Chombo.

Few dare repeat such statements today.

For many of the four million plus residents in the former “Sunshine city”, the only substance they see daily is raw sewerage flowing unabated on the streets.

Lack of regular running water and attendant diseases such as cholera and typhoid still haunting the city stamp the quality of service delivered by Masunda’s council.

Masunda told the Daily News he believes he is doing a good job and a second bite of the cherry won’t hurt. And, like in 2008, he will not offer himself for judgment by the electorate.

“I did not seek office in 2008 and I am not going to seek office in 2013 or whenever it is that the next set of harmonised elections will take place,” he said.

“I am on the lap of the gods. The unlikely gods in this instance are the next batch of councillors,” said the 60-year-old who sits on boards of firms such as Lafarge, construction giant Murray and Roberts and platinum miner Zimplats.

“They have the unfettered prerogative of choosing a mayor from amongst themselves or going to civic society to choose any person whom they think will fit the bill. If they come in my direction as they did in 2008, I will consider it,” said Masunda.

Operating under Chombo, Masunda learnt the hard way that politics is a rugged terrain.

From politicisation of development programmes to unfettered interference in council programmes, suspending councillors and wadding into management issues, Chombo has loomed large in Harare and other MDC-run councils.

Still Masunda says he has weathered the storm.

“I was invited by the democratically-elected councillors to assume the onerous responsibility of serving as mayor of Harare. I did so with boundless energy and enthusiasm for literally no financial reward,” he said.

He says poor revenue streams heavily affected his ability to completely turn around the city.

Local authorities do not get financial help from central government and have to rely on taxing residents and business, many who are failing to pay their bills to council.

Government departments are some of council’s biggest debt defaulters.

Masunda’s council has also dismally failed to mint cash from its vast property portfolio which includes beer halls littered in almost every suburb. Some of the beer halls have been let out to private businesspeople.

“Can you imagine what the situation would be like if we raked in the bulk of over $230 million which is owed to us by various debtors like Chitungwiza Town Council (over $12 million), corporate ($80 million), government ministries and departments ($70 million) and individuals ($70 million)?” asked Masunda.

He said his council inherited a shambolic system left by previous councillors.

“There is serious business to be done in the Mayor’s Office and, for that reason, jokers like Sekesayi Makwavarara should not be allowed to stray anywhere near there!” he declared. - Wendy Muperi

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