Constitution clips 'Chombo' powers

HARARE - The new Constitution has done away with powers used by Local Government minister Ignatius Chombo to fire mayors and councillors countrywide.

To date, the Zanu PF minister has fired dozens of elected councillors, mainly those elected on the MDC ticket and replacing them with handpicked commissioners.

But that is going to be a thing of the past as the new Constitution does not give the Local Government minister such excessive powers which the MDC, civil society organisations and residents groups condemned as open to abuse.

According to Chapter 14, section 278 (2) of the new Constitution, an independent commission will be sorely responsible for the removal of the mayor, councillor and chairperson of a local authority from office.

“An Act of Parliament must provide for the establishment of an independent tribunal to exercise the function of removing from office mayors, chairpersons and councillors…,” reads part of the section.

The MDC has in the past accused Chombo of abusing the Urban Council Act, pointedly Section 114, to wield the axe on several MDC councillors countrywide. Chombo has also used the Act to fire several MDC mayors.

The running battles between Chombo and councillors resulted in one of the councillors who was sacked after blowing the whistle on a $1,6 million corruption case in the Umguza rural district in Matabeleland North dragging Chombo to court for unlawful termination.

Councillor Mxolisi Ndlovu from Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC was dismissed by Chombo in October last year over what he says are trumped up charges after raising alarm at a $1, 6 million tender he alleged had been corruptly awarded by Umguza chief executive officer Collen Moyo to a non-existent company.

The contract was to rehabilitate Ilitshe Road, a 12km stretch that connects Victoria Falls to Nkayi in Matabeleland North Province.

Ndlovu raised the red flag after noting that council workers were rehabilitating the road when there was a $1,6 million tender issued out to a private company.

In April this year, Chombo announced that he had fired suspended Mutare mayor Brian Leslie James, despite a High Court barring him from taking any further action against the suspended mayor.

Chombo claimed that the MDC councillor was incompetent and mismanaged council affairs. James claimed he was forced out for demanding an audit, claiming some corrupt MDC councillors worked with Chombo to oust him.

Service delivery, which had vastly improved in the city under James, has sharply deteriorated with water works projects driven by James now run down through corruption and maladministration. - Tendai Kamhungira

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