SOUTHERN NEWS | Mugabe visit awakens Byo city fathers

DESPITE pleading bankruptcy each time residents of the second largest city demand improved service delivery, money has been found to impress President Robert Mugabe who will soon be visiting the “City of Kings”.

The city has become a hive of activity with council working round the clock to fix roads, which are in a deplorable state due to poor funding.

It is, however, becoming standard practice for local authorities to fix roads and spruce up the environs ahead of Mugabe’s visits.

Mugabe’s wife, Grace, recently slammed local authorities over the habit, arguing it was retrogressive.

The Zanu PF leader has been to eight of the country’s 10 provinces since June, addressing youths through what has been dubbed “youth interface meetings”.

He is set to visit Bulawayo soon as Harare and the second city are the remaining two provinces expected to host the hugely-attended rallies.

Bulawayo’s rally will be held at White City Stadium.

Though the date for the rally is yet to be set, city fathers have since declared the event a State function, with the local authority going out of its way to spruce up the city.

For the past month, council workers have been working round the clock, resurfacing roads leading to the venue, as well as to the Nkulumane Post Office where a community information centre is set to be commissioned by Mugabe.

Director of engineering services Smeli Dube said: “That is a blessing, considering that the president’s visit is for a day but the development made in the city will remain forever.”

“Road maintenance and resealing was a challenge as it was affected by foreign currency shortages. Tar was one of the foreign inputs that needed government support to purchase it,” Dube added.

The praise for Mugabe’s visit went a notch higher, with town clerk Christopher Dube describing the event as a State function.

“The president’s visit is a State function and the projects associated are special projects given the urgency they deserve,” he said, adding that both “council and the Zimbabwe National Roads Administration were involved but it would be appreciated that the development done remains as asset for the residents of Bulawayo.”

Mugabe has been criticised by political parties and civic society for pumping funds into local authorities for roads rehabilitation only during his visits.

So far, nine cities and towns have hugely benefited from his youth interface rallies, notwithstanding the fact that only roads leading to the venues usually get the upgrading.

The city fathers even granted Zanu PF the green light to host the event free of charge, with councillors saying it was of “national significance”.

According to the latest council minutes, the matter came under spotlight after councillor Gideon Mangena acknowledged with appreciation the urgent road repairs, maintenance and resealing currently being carried out in the city ahead of Mugabe’s visit.

He, however, inquired about the source of funds for the sudden speedy roads rehabilitation, considering that before the expected visit, the roads were not repaired due lack of resources.

Mangena said the impending visit brought development to Nkulumane.

He was backed by councillor Norman Hlabani, who also welcomed the development.

“The president’s visit is an advantage . . . because of economic challenges, council is not able to service and maintain roads and pre-sale stands,” Hlabani said.


Council in cremator dilemma

THE council is battling to bring into the country a cremator bought from South Africa for nearly $100 000 due to contractual challenges.

Currently, the city has only one cremator situated at West Park Cemetery.

According to the latest council minutes, town clerk Christopher Dube indicated that early last month he had submitted a report to council seeking authority to pay

R120 000 to the South African Revenue Authority, as clearance costs to facilitate the release of the cremator which is currently held in Durban.

This was after it became apparent that the contractor was failing to pay the clearance costs.

Dube further reported that efforts to make the payment failed because the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe had requested certain information from the contractor, which could not be produced as the company was no longer operational.

Having hit a brick wall, the matter was referred back to management, which sought audience with the contractor’s lawyers.

“Council had paid the contractor $97 120 deposit and chances of recovering these funds were very slim.

“In order to mitigate our loss, management was proposing that council takesover the contract from Durban to Zimbabwe including the installation,” reads the council minutes in part.

What appears to be causing headaches to the city fathers is that if the contract is cancelled, council stands to lose the deposit it had paid. It will also cost more to issue a new tender.,

Moreover, most of the costs outstanding would remain in force whether the contract was cancelled or not and that it was better to pay a little more than to lose $97 120.

It was therefore, recommended that council takesover the contract and that the costs involved thereof will be reported to the relevant committee as soon as the figures become available.

“The authority be granted for council to take over the contract for the procurement and delivery of the cremator from Durban on the understanding that the costs thereof would be reported to Council as soon as the relevant figures become available,” reads part of the resolution.

Cremation is a process when a dead body is burnt at temperatures ranging between 1 400 to 1 800 degrees Fahrenheit.

The intense heat reduces the body to its basic elements and dry bone fragments.

As part of efforts to limit the fast reduction of burial space in the city, where there has been a low uptake of cremation, the local authority has been encouraging residents to consider it as a substitute to the conventional burial.

On average, the monthly rate of cremation stands at 12 and the majority are Hindu, who culturally and religiously believe in cremation.

Cremation of an adult resident costs $63,00, if conducted from Monday to Friday while the charge is $72 for weekends and holidays.

Non-residents of the city are charged at different percentages of citizen’s rates depending on the day of cremation but the average is $95.


Magistrate slams police as accused fails to walk, sit

ESIGODINI senior resident magistrate Tawanda Muchemwa has slammed police brutality after cops brought to court an accused person who struggled to walk and sit after he was allegedly battered at the town’s police base.

The accused — 35-year-old Siziba Bvute — was reportedly arrested last week at Mawabeni Business Centre after he was nabbed while driving without a licence.

Images in possession of the Southern News show a heavily battered Bvute, a suspected gold dealer from Mberengwa, with bruises.

He was later charged with two more offences which included malicious damage to property and assaulting or resisting a peace officer.

Muchemwa slammed the police after Bvute appeared before him while kneeling, as he could not stand or sit.

“This court laments the increase of cases of assault perpetrated on suspects or accused persons by some rowdy or bad apples in the police force,” Muchemwa said.

“That conduct on its own is against the presumption of innocence which cuts across pre-trial incarceration as enshrined in our Constitution and it also brings the police force into disrepute,” he fumed.

The magistrate further said: “The accused person was battered for a mere traffic offence and the court have to entertain his initial appearance while he was kneeling because he cannot stand or sit and for that reason this court is going to remand him out of custody to seek medical attention at the local district hospital.”

He was remanded on free bail to October 12.

Muchemwa also queried why the police had preferred to bring the accused to court on a form 242 instead of a complete charge sheet as should be the case.

According to the facts on the form 242, the incident took place on October 4 at Mawabeni Business Centre. Bvute was later detained at Esigodini Police Base.

The accused was reportedly left in the custody of one constable Jakarasi after which he started demanding his release.

Bvute allegedly assaulted him with clenched fists and stones, resulting in Jakarasi fleeing the scene to seek help from his colleague, one constable Mawire.

It is further alleged that when the two arrived, Bvute went for Mawire, whom he also attacked, resulting in a police radio being damaged.

According to the charge sheet, the two cops were later sent to Esigodini District Hospital for treatment.

The accused was arrested at the crime scene and his vehicle was impounded.

Meanwhile, the Southern News understands that when Bvute went to Esigodini District Hospital after the alleged battering by police, he was immediately transferred to Bulawayo United Hospitals.


$6,8m needed for Mberengwa bridge

GOVERNMENT needs about $6,8 million to rehabilitate the Jeka-Tandavarai Bridge in Mberengwa District, which was washed away by the ravaging cyclone early this year.

The preparation for the rehabilitation of the bridge which links Mberengwa East, North and West is still to be fixed, leaving people in those areas resorting to alternative longer routes to reach their intended destinations.

To make matters worse, the continued absence of a substantive structure has also left communities cut-off from crucial services like hospitals, clinics and schools.

Minister of Transport Jorum Gumbo told the Southern News that as a ministry, they were seized with the matter despite limited financial resources.

“It’s our wish to fix the problem and as a result, we have placed it on next year’s budget and we need something like $6,8 million to ensure the bridge is completely rehabilitated,” Gumbo said.

“But while we are waiting for the budget, we are currently in the process of putting a temporary structure just to ensure that the bridge is accessible and we will soon be bringing the material from Chipinge. Besides, we had already created a pass way for people as we try to source the funds for the rehabilitation,” Gumbo said.

The minister could not be drawn into revealing when the construction of the bridge was likely to commence.

He, however, admitted that government was facing financial challenges to rehabilitate all the bridges and roads across the country that were destroyed by floods.

“As much as we are willing to address the problem the truth is we have no cash, the cash we had, we used it for fixing roads that were also destroyed by the rains. Things have been tight but I have tried my best to ensure that the situation goes back to normal.”

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