Kombayi back at Civic Centre offices

HARARE – After two years on suspension, Gweru mayor Hamutendi Kombayi has returned to work at his Civic Centre offices.

In an interview with the Daily News yesterday, Kombayi said he was glad to be back after a long hiatus from work.

Kombayi and councillor Kenneth Sithole were fired by former Local Government minister Saviour Kasukuwere earlier this year for alleged criminal abuse of office.

“I have returned to work. Now I am trying to identify areas which need to be addressed urgently. The city also has new management so I need time to adjust,” Kombayi said.

He, however, said he would only breathe a sigh of relief from Kasukuwere’s interference once a new minister was announced.

Kasukuwere had blasted the city for its misconduct following numerous allegations of corruption and misappropriation of funds, with the embattled minister accusing city fathers of allegedly purchasing 400 beasts without following proper procedure at a council auction.

Among other issues that Kombayi and his councillors were being accused of are running a $41 000 meal bill at Fairmile Motel and that council employees were drawing 80 litres of fuel per week for personal use.

Three weeks ago, Bulawayo High Court judge Justice Nicholas Mathonsi said the two MDC councillors had been fired unjustifiably and ordered their immediate reinstatement without loss of allowances and benefits.

Kasukuwere, who had been on a crusade against most MDC-run local authorities, had defied an initial High Court order to re-instate Kombayi.

To further strengthen his grip on opposition-run local authorities, Kasukuwere fast tracked the Local Government Amendment Act which would give him ultimate power over decisions at councils.

According to the Act, the minister can under reasonable grounds, suspend a councillor or chairperson if they suspect them of gross incompetence and misconduct and if they fail to discharge their duties in office.

It also states that the minister has the authority to appoint members of an Independent Tribunal responsible for the suspensions.

Residents associations and pressure groups were against the Act which they said was a violation of the Constitution as it went against the notion of devolution.