'City needs $1bn to reach world-class status'

HARARE - Acting Harare Mayor Christopher Mbanga reckons Zimbabwe’s capital city needs “well over a billion dollars” to reach world-class status but ultimately a change of government could be the catalyst towards such a dream.

Mbanga, who took over as Harare’s acting mayor in March after Bernard Manyenyeni was suspended by government, said the city was still a long way from providing basics such as clean water, flood-lit roads, and also clearing the housing waiting list backlog.

“This is what we are trying to do, but the challenge is huge, the economy in the country is not performing and that is reflecting in all sectors,” Mbanga said in an interview recently.

Asked how he was coping in the mayoral hot seat, Mbanga said: “It’s a hot position in the sense that they are too many expectations from the residents.

“They expect the mayor to deliver but we have our own challenges. We are trying our level best under the circumstances to do whatever we can do.”

Harare city fathers have been accused of bleeding the local authority by taking home astronomical allowances and salaries while service delivery continues to deteriorate.

“It’s an unfair accusations…people are not coming up with facts, remember government has put a ceiling on what the town clerk should earn which is around $10 000 plus.

“No one is earning more than that.

“But the salary structure must also reflect what is obtaining in the private sector if you are going to attract people with the expertise.”

Asked if he has not going against his party in taking over from Manyenyeni and apparently going to bed with the enemy, Mbanga said his hands were clean and chastised his colleagues in the MDC who recently passed a vote of no confidence against him.

Mbanga said he did not happily accept and step in to fill the post left by the suspension of his boss, but was bound by duty to do so.

“He is my mayor, he is only on suspension he has not been expelled. I would say the relationship is good,” Mbanga said.

The burly councillor also dismissed his opponents in the MDC saying that people who doubt his  loyalty represent a contestation of ideas and clashing of personalities, “which is expected in a big party”.

“It’s to be expected in a big organisation such as the MDC, people have their own opinion on who should be deputy mayor of Harare and will try every trick in the book to get rid of you,” he said.

Mbanga also scoffed at claims he was now taking orders from Local Government minister Saviour Kasukuwere.

“Those are careless statements. I haven’t gone rogue. I am a child of the MDC, Morgan Tsvangirai is my president. The MDC is my home. I’m not going anyway.”

Mbanga described his relationship with Kasukuwere, who is the Zanu PF political commissar, as strictly “professional.”

“Our relationship has been misconstrued. It is a professional relationship”.

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