Byo mayor defends $118k Mercedes Benz

BULAWAYO - Our Bulawayo reporter Jeffrey Muvundusi sits down with mayor Martin Moyo. Below are excerpts of the interview.

Q: Honourable mayor, how best can you describe your tenure from the time you took over?

A: My tenure in office has been characterised by mixed fortunes. I suffered the passing on of our erstwhile town clerk, Middleton Nyoni, end of September 2015. Then in 2016 we were investigated for corruption resulting in the suspension of five of our colleagues. Then we lost our long serving and dedicated director of housing and community services, Isaiah Magagula, on the eve of his retirement. These were the painful events. On the positive side, we have continued to receive accolades as the best run city, the negatives notwithstanding. We are pushing through some of the most ambitious projects namely the Egodini project and the water and sanitation infrastructure rehabilitation project. If completed, this will have the effect of cleaning the sewerage polluted Umguza, Phekiwe and Khami rivers. This would be a legacy we would leave for the city.

Q: What can you say has been your most difficult moment at the helm of the city?

A: Obviously, these deaths and the investigation posed quite some challenges for us. These gentlemen have been ill. It happens and we mourn them and there’s eventually closure and acceptance of an act of God. The investigation was disruptive and brought a lot of anxieties and uncertainty. Fortunately, for us, we were largely exonerated by the investigation.

Q: Two senior government officials who include Transport and Infrastructure Development minister Joram Gumbo and Health and Child Care minister David Parirenyatwa have previously described Bulawayo as the best run city in the country, how does that make you feel and what’s the secret behind?

A: Naturally, we feel good when we get appreciation for what we’re doing from people outside local government. It’s some consolation amid a sea of criticism and scorn by those bent on destroying us. Our secret is respect for systems and procedures.

Q: Some residents have complained about poor service delivery, would you say the city is struggling to keep up with the service delivery issues?

A: Service delivery has a direct relationship with resources. Little resources translate to little or no service. Adequate resources translate into high standards of service delivery. Council is owed about $140 million by residents. That is approximately one and half times our revenue budget for 2017. This is money that could have been usefully deployed to do a lot of work that is related to service delivery. Let residents first pay and then complain. Without paying their dues, citizens have no moral right to complain.

Q: For instance, potholes, mainly during this rainy season, have been a headache to many motorists, what are you doing to address this problem?

A: The rain has been phenomenal this year. Fortunately, for this part of the country, it was just rain and no damage with fatalities. The only problem has been the damage on the roads. This is a matter our department of Engineering is seized with. When you see the damage on the road in front of your house, remember, there are worse places. They cannot all be attended to in one day. What’s more is that we do not have adequate resources.

Q: On the same issue, poor streets lighting are causing crime in the city, do you have any plans to improve the situation?

A: With street lighting, it is also a case of resources. But we have tried to maintain public lighting in the Central Business District at more than 90 percent. We accept that it is dark in the suburbs. This has been exacerbated by vandalism. Street lights and other public infrastructure are a public good and should be looked after by all of us. Where vandals are known, they must be reported.

Q: There have been complaints from some sectors over the new mayoral vehicle, a Mercedes Benz, acquired at a cost of $118 00. What’s your response to that?

A: Council buys tens of cars in any year. The mayoral Benz is just one car in a large fleet of cars. At $118 000, that is what it cost. It is in fact in the lower range. The car is not Martin Moyo’s. I’ll leave it behind for my successor in 12 months. The problem with our people is that they are petty. At this price, it is one thousandth of our revenue budget. Rather we should be worrying why the Egodini project is taking long to happen. That’s a project that is worth $60 million with a potential to create a thousand jobs.

Q: Others have questioned the timing and the rationale for this purchase only one year before the end of the current tenure of council, what’s your take?

A: There’s no question about timing. It’s a council vehicle and remains behind when I leave.

Q: Recently, we saw government expelling the deputy mayor Gift Banda and ward 22 councillor Reuben Matengu, over alleged corruption. Was the expulsion justified?

A: I have not been officially notified of these expulsions. I do not know if the individuals concerned have been informed. The deputy mayor was exonerated of any wrong-doing with respect to the Ascot property. We have always said so. The Hume Park lease never materialised. One wonders how someone can be convicted for possession of something they never acquired. But then, I’ve never been in a tribunal and I don’t know how these things work.

Q: How is the relationship between this local authority and central government?

A: Local authorities are quasi governments with authority to make by-laws and other decisions in the governance of their areas. Lately, this latitude to make decisions at the local level has been diminished by directives from the parent ministry. This creates fear in local authorities to make decisions that Local Government Complex in Harare may not like. This is undesirable as it impairs the autonomy and confidence of local authorities, and creates over reference to the ministry.

Q: How far have you gone in addressing the issue of vendors mushrooming across the city?

A: This is always a source of conflict and needs to be handled with care. Our attitude is that council should manage the vendors so that there is order in the streets. We should avoid direct confrontation with vendors, confiscation of wares. Rather, let’s find them places to work from.

Q: Coming to the issue of the Egodini Mall project, is the deal still on?

A: The Egodini project is on course. Technical and cadastral surveys have been conducted. Initial actual plans have been submitted to council for evaluation and comments and were referred back to the contractor for corrections. Currently, an environmental impact assessment is being conducted. Closer to the day of the project launch, the public will be notified.

Q: Government has insisted on introducing urban toll gates, are they really necessary?

A: Urban toll gates are very unpopular with the motoring public. I can only support that idea at my own peril. We have approximately 2 200km of road in Bulawayo. Harare, I estimate has over 6 000km of road. We are road authorities in our own right. The roads are bad. We need resources to recondition them. After losing vehicle licensing to Zinara and without meaningful revenue from parking, we need to raise funding for the rehabilitation of our roads. If urban toll gates can provide the requisite funding to rehabilitate our roads, perhaps it is an idea worth exploring.

Q: Turning to the water situation, we have received good rains this season, what does this mean to the future of water supply in the city.

A: We are grateful that our dams are spilling. Five out of six dams are spilling. They spill when they are more than 100 percent. We have had water shedding and water rationing. These are things we will need to review. Hopefully, council may want to relax some of the measures in the water rationing regime.

Q: Are there any targets that you have set for yourself before you leave office?

A: As council, we want to see the Egodini project actually take off the ground. We also are keen to have the water and sewerage infrastructure project completed in the life of this council.

Q: Finally, what message would you like to leave to the residents?

A: To the residents of Bulawayo, I want to say thank you for your support morally and financially. Some of us though are not doing their bit. We do have a debt overhang of about $140 million. This is approximately one and half times our revenue. We could do wonders if that money is to be availed so it could be deployed in the rehabilitation of our roads and street lights. So let’s all play our part by paying our dues promptly and regularly. Thank you also for your prayers for rain. God answered your prayers and we have received plenty of rain.

Comments (4)

No Mister Mayor. The issue is not the Egodini project. You were not asked about that. You were asked about the excessive $118,000 of ratepayers money you spent on a mayoral car. Good try at deflecting the issue.

david taylor - 12 March 2017

The cost of $118000 translate to R1,6 million thus not a small day to day car the car of R1,2 million its a AMG63 C series, top of the range, with such speed as equivalent to the president's limo. difference is that the mayor one is not a armored car. He is lying. Beside what sort of services does the mayor in a dying country, dying city with unemployment of 80%.

amina - 13 March 2017

The Mayor is not telling the truth Why has the issue of the building of the Mayors Mansion in Hillside being left out in the interview and the wifis at bigwigs homes at the same time there is poor street lightning in the city which is important ? Could we have another interveiw with the Mayor some important questions were left out or deliberately left out of this interveiw

Inw - 13 March 2017

Mr Mayor, you are right on your comment surrounding the $118K merc however when times are tough and some people are not paying their dues then as the leadership you should send a strong message by way of conduct that you empathise and share the peoples pain. Surely the council could have bought something comfortable and fitting with a different badge. Signals are important, right now all the good work you are being praised in doing is being watered down by this Merc issue. If the issue is outside your jurisdiction then say so however if you had powers to influence the decision on the fleet and you didn't then its a great shame and wasted opportunity.

Galore - 13 March 2017

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