Suspensions, water crisis cripple Harare

HARARE - The year 2016 was, for Harare City Council (HCC), a tumultuous period characterised by numerous activities chief among them suspensions of management and elected officials, rescinding of suspensions and interference by Local Government minister Saviour Kasukuwere.

The city also began an intensive water rationing regimen as council moved to save the little that supply dams had.

According to a Harare water supply dams report for August, using Lake Chivero as the sole source of water, Harare had 164 days or five months of supply left.

Council spokesperson Michael Chideme said the city had three water bowsers that will be distributing free water to different suburbs daily — as the rationing schedule showed that some areas would go for up to four days without water.

As a result of the water shortages residents had a torrid time as they failed to access the precious commodity with many using unprotected wells which exposed them to water-borne diseases.

As the water crisis hit the city suburbs, the City Fathers were at each other’s throats with Kasukuwere leading a suspension crusade that further destabilised council operations.

In May, town clerk appointee James Mushore was put on forced leave without benefits during a special council meeting by Harare’s city fathers, pending his employment status at the courts.

Kasukuwere said his suspension from taking office should not be politicised as proper procedures were not undertaken during his appointment.

Prior to council’s decision the minister of Local Government had rescinded his appointment arguing that the decision had not been approved by the Local Government Board (LGB).

Kasukuwere also went on to suspend Harare mayor Bernard Manyenyeni for insubordination for appointing Mushore despite government objection.

“The status quo remains. Mushore has no business at Town House. We are not against him, but he must just follow the law. I am surprised that such an educated man behaves in a manner that qualifies as not being civilised.

“You cannot destabilise the peaceful and smooth flow of business. If he succeeds at the LGB then he will certainly become town clerk with everyone’s support. What that position requires is the support of the State. You cannot succeed if the government does not support you,” Kasukuwere said.

As a result of Mushore and Manyenyeni’s suspension, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) provincial leadership which dominates council resolved to fire councillors Christopher Mbanga, Paula Macharangwanda and Stewart Mutizwa accusing them of acting against the party.

The MDC argued that the three were working in cahoots with Local Government minister Kasukuwere to suspend Mushore.

According to provincial chairperson Eric Murai, the three councillors were taking orders from Zanu PF instead of safeguarding the party’s interests at the local authority.

To express displeasure at Kasukuwere’s involvement in Town House affairs MDC councillors boycotted once a full council meeting in solidarity with Manyenyeni.

He was first suspended in April by Kasukuwere for procedurally appointing Mushore as Harare’s town clerk. Barely 24 hours after returning from his 45-day suspension he was served with another suspension letter that claimed he failed to investigate allegations of corruption at Easipark, City Parking and other entities under Harare Sunshine Holdings Private Limited.

As a result of suspending Mushore, HCC owes the embattled town clerk more than $50 000 in salaries.

In an interview, Manyenyeni said it was unfortunate that Mushore had been hounded out of work on political grounds.

He added that with the city struggling to pay its workers, they would just have to make a plan once he starts claiming his dues.

In what would become the city’s greatest scandal of 2016, an audit into the HCC employment costs compliance revealed that the city overpaid performance bonuses and retrenchment packages by more than $1,6 million.

The report seen by the Daily News shows that in July 2015 seven executive directors were paid unbudgeted bonuses amounting to more than $600 000.

Findings from the audit also showed that council paid unbudgeted retrenchment packages to ten executive members amounting to $6,251 million.

The report indicated that 40 executive managers in grades 1 to 4 have their payroll and salaries account solely administered by the human capital director (HCD) Cainos Chingombe.

The report also revealed that in the city’s 2015 and 2016 budgets, there was no mention of the salaries and allowances for the executive managers.

“Audit noted that HCC’s actual total employment cost for the year 2015 was $129 646 244 whilst the approved budgeted total employment cost was $111 266 250 resulting in an unfavourable variance of $18 379 994,” the audit report said.

Furthermore the report also revealed that $282 000 was transferred into retrenched executive managers bank accounts from HCC’s Beer Levy and Estates account outside of employment costs by then finance controller Tendai Kwenda.

Acting on the revelations of the audit report councillors approved the suspension of acting town clerk Josephine Ncube without pay or benefits pending thorough investigations.

Other directors involved, acting finance director Tendai Kwenda, director of works Phillip Pfukwa and health director Prosper Chonzi were saved the chop.

However, Kasukuwere rescinded Manyenyeni’s decision to suspend two council officials on allegations of corruption, arguing that it was out of malice.

In terms of service delivery Manyenyeni distanced the city from potholes arguing that residents should approve the Zimbabwe National Roads Administration (Zinara) as it was their responsibility.

During a full council meeting Manyenyeni said the issue of potholes should not be burdened on council as it was only getting piece-meal from Zinara.

“Residents should focus their complaints on potholes and poor roads to Zinara and not HCC. We should be getting about $40 million per year from Zinara for road maintenance but they are only remitting $1 million which is not enough for standard repairs,” he said.

Manyenyeni added that Zinara should take full responsibility and blame for the poor state of Harare’s roads.

Pursuant to their resolution on prepaid water meters as a way of generating revenue and conserving water, council rolled 3 000 units under its pilot project.

The project targeted Bluffhill, the Avenues, Sunningdale, Kambuzuma, Greendale and Avondale suburbs.

Companies providing the pilot meters are Hukoshwa, Industrial Products, Syvern, Tricon Investments and Utility Systems.

According to HCC spokesperson Michael Chideme, the prepaid system is a conservation tool for the city and residents as they monitor the amount of water they consume.

Chideme said the pilot project will be able to determine the ideal system for Harare as it can also pinpoint where leaks are occurring thereby reducing non-revenue water.

“Estimations are that the city can reduce costs by up to 30 percent as a result of reduction of non-revenue water. These meters are principally a water management tool,” he said.

Earlier in the year council resolved to close Warren Hills Cemetery for public burials as it was setting aside the remaining land for expansion of the Provincial Heroes Cemetery.

Harare has nine active cemeteries namely Granville A and B or kuMbudzi, Highfield, Mbare, Warren Hills, Dzivarasekwa, Greendale, Mabvuku and Pioneer.

Acting director of housing Mathew Marara told the housing committee that Warren Hills had more than seven hectares of serviced land remaining for burial.

In sports, finance committee chairperson Trynos Moyo said Harare City Football Club will have to find external sponsorship in the 2017 season.

Moyo said it was no longer feasible for council to continue as its main sponsor considering that resources needed to be channelled towards paying salaries and service delivery.

He was speaking after councillors complained of poor performance in the Confederation of African Football Cup preliminary round where they lost to Zanaco of Zambia.

In 2016 the club raised a storm among ratepayers when it took a 54-member delegation to Madagascar for its match against AS Adema, costing the residents $54 000.

“The club should seriously look for sponsors preferably from our suppliers because we want to cut costs.

“We understand the impact that sport has on society and the world but we cannot ignore the fact that we can no longer continue to finance them. The money is simply not there,” Moyo said.

Moyo said the club should follow in their competitors’ footsteps as the money being used to fund its programs is running out.

According to Chonzi HIV-related deaths continued to dominate as the leading causes of death in people who attend Harare City Council health care facilities.

In a report he presented to councillors Chonzi outlined that of the 4 066 deaths that were recorded in 2015, 20 percent were attributed to HIV.

He said pneumonia accounted for 10,2 percent, tuberculosis 8,5 percent, renal failure 4,2 percent and cerebral vascular accidents were at 3,9 percent.

“The highest proportion of deaths occurred in the 25-44 age group as had been the trend in the previous years.

“There were 78 suicides and 39 of them occurred in the 25-44 age group,” he said.

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