New Harare Mayor Gutu outlines vision

HARARE - Outgoing Justice and Legal Affairs deputy minister and MDC Harare provincial spokesperson Obert Gutu (OG) was nominated by MDC to serve as Harare mayor.

The Daily News reporter Wendy Muperi (WM) spoke to Gutu (OG) on various issues covering his new conceivable office. Below are excerpts of the interview.

WM: May you give a brief background of yourself?

OG: I was born in 1962 at Gutu Mission Hospital. I spent the first 13 years of my life there, did my primary at Gutu Mission (then Gutu Central Primary School) and proceeded to do my “A” Levels at Fletcher High School.

I was the high school’s top “A” Level student in 1981 and so I got a government scholarship to study at the UZ Faculty of Law.

In 1987, I was admitted at High Court as a legal practitioner. I briefly worked as a public prosecutor at Harare and Mbare magistrates’ courts.

In July of the same year, I joined one of the biggest black-owned law firms Chirunda, Chihambakwe & Partners as a professional assistant. In October 1990, I founded this law firm (Gutu & Chikowero) and it is now fully fledged, specialising in commercial law and international corporate legal consultancy.

I bought this premise (160 Samora Machel Avenue) in 2002 and named it Negona Chambers which is my totem (Gumbo). I have been practising law for the past 26 years.

I now also hold a Master of Philosophy in Constitutional Law. I am a married man with grown children; my youngest child is doing Lower Sixth.

I am a patriot, pan Africanist and keen believer in social democracy. I am a passionate fanatic of Arsenal and locally Caps United.

WM: When did you join MDC?

OG: I joined MDC at its formation. Why? Because it was the only political party whose ideology and founding principles is able to take Zimbabwe to the next level. I do respect the national movement and gallant sons of Zimbabwe who paid the ultimate sacrifice to ensure that we gained independence in 1980.

WM: Who is your role model?

OG: I idolise Herbert Chitepo as a lawyer-cum-nationalist and would like to say I also emulate Joshua Nkomo.

WM: What are your priority areas for City of Harare city and how do you intend to make that dream come true?

OG: I have five key result areas for the city which used to be the sunshine city of not just Zimbabwe but Africa as well. I can vividly recall my first days in Harare in the seventies, it was so clean and the road infrastructure was good.

The first one is water and sanitation.

I would want the people of Harare to have not just water, but clean, safe and piped water 24/7. Everyone should be able to flush the toilet and open a tap and get water any time.

I actually look at a situation where Harare has been “villagised”, because if we are making people dig wells. That is “villagising” Harare.

Each time I visit relatives and friends from both high and low density areas, the problem is the same. There is a serious water shortage.

I have been staying in Borrowdale’s Ballantyne Park for the past 13 years, we last had piped water in February 2008 and I had to drill a 60 metre borehole which has also gone dry so I have to buy 5 000 litres every two weeks meaning I fork out $110 a month for water.

How many can afford to pay for that considering that most Zimbabweans are said to be living in poverty, spending $2 a day? There are places like Tafara, Mabvuku which prompted me to drill two boreholes in Mabvuku ward 46, but I have come to realise that the situation is just as bad in many other areas.

We have to avert epidemic outbreaks that hit the country 2008, with the rainy season just about two months away.

The second is refuse removal, if you move around Harare, never mind the CBD (Central Business District), you see heaps of garbage for example close to Nenyere Flats (Mbare), Glen View, Kuwadzana even in the low density suburbs.

I always ask myself, is this how Harare should be? No, those heaps have to go. I do appreciate what the previous council did but we should continue to re-energise and improve the efforts. They did their best and we can also do better.

We need consistency on the weekly refuse removal schedule.

That takes us to waste management, there is too much littering in the city. We should really go into aggressive public awareness and serious enforcement of city bylaws.

There seems to be lack of awareness for some reason.

Drawing from the city’s twinning system, I was just talking to our (outgoing) ambassador to Germany, Hebson Makuvise, to twin Harare to other four cities over and above Munich including Frankfurt and Cologne.

On three, is the rehabilitation of road networks. There is a huge outcry regarding potholes in Harare.

Potholes are everywhere, many high density suburbs have terrible roads and I believe it is critical that we work comprehensively on their rehabilitation so that they are safe for the drivers, pedestrians and cars.

Then four is street lighting, Harare needs that, from commercial to residential areas, generally lighting is very poor.

I do not think lighting is very costly, we cannot have a sunshine city which is totally dark at night, it should be lit.

The rehabilitation of health facilities and recreational facilities is the fifth. I have been reading that most council facilities are generally in a state of disrepair.

We need them to be in good state for our clients, council health institutions being the majority are a crucial component of primarily Harare’s wellbeing.

Sports and recreational facilities, that is, those pools, basketball pitches, pools, halls, parks and clubs are crucial in birthing talent, there is just so much talent both in high density. Who knows where we can get our Lionel Messi, Joel Shambo, Kirsty Coventry and Shacky Tauro?

WM: How exactly are you going to achieve that?

OG: All these plans I mentioned can only happen through partnering and strong networks.

I am grateful to my profession which has made me travel to all corners and meet many people amongst them important people who can be useful to Harare.

I have been receiving many calls from people who are willing to partner us.

I have relationships with many ambassadors serving here. I have also started talks with the African Global Heritage Foundation who are keen to partner us in pairing our metropolitan cities with others in South Africa and the continent.

I would like to put it on record that I believe in looking North, East, West and South.

If you phone Lin Lin (Chinese ambassador) he will tell you who I am, I have been to China twice on official visits.

The world is so small and would have more friends, the more the merrier.

I have nothing personal with our nationalists, though I have a different ideology I believe in.

Going forward, I want to pay tribute to veteran lawyer and outgoing mayor Muchadeyi Masunda for the good work he did with his team.

I do not want to see this tremendous work go to waste and would go out of my way to learn from his experience as a senior businessperson and industrialist.

WM: Already there is a perception out there that you are an elitist, what do you say about that?

OG: I am not an elitist, I grew up at Mushayavanhu Business Centre where my parents ran a small business there.

Ndiri munhu wekumapfanya, I was a lodger before in Chi-town (Chitungwiza) Zengeza 3 house number 10 Rukudzo Street. I had a room there.

I am still in touch with my background so I can relate with the problems of people in high density suburbs. I know the ghetto and even the rural areas more than many people.

WM: Historically there have been tensions between the MDC dominated council and the Zanu PF Local Government minister Ignatius Chombo which in some cases affected service delivery.

If the set-up persists, how are you going to deal with it?

OG: It will not be on my agenda to be confrontational with whoever is going to be the minister.

Harare is not just the capital but the flagship of the country so it should be placed above partisan politics.

I will wear my hat as a head of a city made up of people of different backgrounds and political persuasions, not as a politician.

Anyway I know spanners will be thrown my way but I have gained a lot of experience at the ministry of Justice, my three years or so as deputy minister working under a Zanu PF minister Patrick Chinamasa taught important lessons that will be useful for the mayoral office.

I will work to improve on those.

I am going to engage all councillors equally and get to understand the characters at Town House at a personal level. Service delivery and service delivery is what we will be there to do.

 

Comments (12)

You will need to work out of the office,be where the action is required or happening,take a look around and see for yourself. The task demands that you lead your troops from the front as some of them are used to a culture of corruption ,earning undeserved high salaries with no interest in what they are paid for.

gweja - 28 August 2013

You are just confirming kuti the last Council headed by MDC did nothing and lets hope you do something. Sanctions are real my friend. As Zimbabweans lets Unite.

Dhewha - 28 August 2013

vaudze & show them Gutu wekwa Gutu.....

et - 28 August 2013

Although Mr Gutu you talk brilliantly of your plans, its rhetoric as reality will be met with resistance from ZANU and especially that ZANU Minister who will take charge of the ministry that will supervise you. My advise for those who will want to bring real change to Zimbabwe and Zimbabweans is to never take up comfortables chairs in comfortables offices because it will be difficult for them to even imagin being beaten by mosquitos while fighting for real change.

Ziziharinanyanga - 28 August 2013

"we cannot have a sunshine city which is totally dark at night, it should be lit"....I do not see the logical thread between these two. Sunshine refers to the more days of sunny days that Harare experiences per year by virtue of its geographic location. It has nothing to do with power shortages experienced across most of SADC cities. There are tower lights erected in 1980s but these are no longer working because the country has supply-side constraint in electricity. Harare does not generate its own electricity and must rely on ZESA. Do not promise what is beyond your capability His Worship new Mayor

Antony Jongwe - 28 August 2013

hanzi i used to stay kuzengeza....you used to...now waakumadale hence elitist tag. munhu anodada uyu

dread - 28 August 2013

kikiki, the most laughable thing is your headline. This man is a mayor in his house and dreams, Chombo has already spoken. Makavata sitereki.

reason - 29 August 2013

mukuru mukuru vaGutu mwise pakati pamakumbo.Basa renyu rinobva rareruka.Lets work together Harare will shine again.

nyasha - 29 August 2013

What we want is a situation in which we have a mayor who can lift all the residents' complains and worries and attempt to solve them in a pragmatic way, so that the city of Harare will be the leading urban dwelling entity not to follow the towns such as Gweru, Mutare, Kwekwe. There should be a new precedent to be adopted by the mayor, so that people's democratic dispensation will be fulfilled. Any mayor who is transparent and liberal to people and all residents is acceptable irregardless of his/her political capacity. We don't want a mayor who is a financial shenanigan nor a political demagog. If Obert Gutu is a refined candidate for the post, yes we want him, if anyone other than his willfit,then, we don't have any problem with that, but we want some one with good deliberations. Then, if not performed well according to the residents' welfare, my Ministry will not hesitate to fire the mayors or even Councillors. So, all urban local authorities, please, may we deliberate your duties effectively without ant utterances. If we observe all this, then we are keen to transfigure our Sunshine City into a proverbial land of honey and milky. I thank you...

Local Government Engineer - 29 August 2013

I believe that the coming in of a new person into office means the coming in of new vision and ideas. What I would like to ask Mr new Mayor to do is not to sit on development because of political differences with Zanu PF. Mutare is almost loosing out on the brilliant 14 storey, and first of its kind Anjin hotel project because of nonsense politics. We need new skyscrapers in Harare to meet the developments happening in Nairobi, Dar-es-Salaam, Luanda and even Khartoum. By laws which restrict the building of skyscrapers which towers above the RBZ Tower should be scraped. This is 21st century and if new and very tall buildings are not constructed because of primitive bylaws, I wonder how Harare will achieve the international standards by 2025. I think its time for the city council to upgrade the old Harare and this will only be possible if modern office and retail buildings are constructed in that area. That place is the most rundown part of the city firstly because no development is happening there. It will not be possible for garbage to mount along Samora Machel because the avenue is very developed. Garbage in old harare will be a thing of the past if development happens in that area. The Net One and Fidelity Life Towers brought a new lease of life to the area, and had such type of projects continued the area was going to be clean and modern. The Newlands shopping center is ideal for a second CBD, and will emulate Nairobi's upper hill. Let us not frustrate investors out of joint ventures. The $100 million dollar mall and the Hilton projects are superb. See to it that they are through.

edsand production - 25 October 2013

I believe that the coming in of a new person into office means the coming in of new vision and ideas. What I would like to ask Mr new Mayor to do is not to sit on development because of political differences with Zanu PF. Mutare is almost loosing out on the brilliant 14 storey, and first of its kind Anjin hotel project because of nonsense politics. We need new skyscrapers in Harare to meet the developments happening in Nairobi, Dar-es-Salaam, Luanda and even Khartoum. By laws which restrict the building of skyscrapers which towers above the RBZ Tower should be scraped. This is 21st century and if new and very tall buildings are not constructed because of primitive bylaws, I wonder how Harare will achieve the international standards by 2025. I think its time for the city council to upgrade the old Harare and this will only be possible if modern office and retail buildings are constructed in that area. That place is the most rundown part of the city firstly because no development is happening there. It will not be possible for garbage to mount along Samora Machel because the avenue is very developed. Garbage in old harare will be a thing of the past if development happens in that area. The Net One and Fidelity Life Towers brought a new lease of life to the area, and had such type of projects continued the area was going to be clean and modern. The Newlands shopping center is ideal for a second CBD, and will emulate Nairobi's upper hill. Let us not frustrate investors out of joint ventures. The $100 million dollar mall and the Hilton projects are superb. See to it that they are through.

edsand production - 25 October 2013

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