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MDC-led council show true colours

30 Dec 2020 at 07:18hrs | Views
THE year2020 will go down in the history of the MDC-led Harare City Council as the worst under its leadership.

The year exposed existing massive corruption, land scams, leadership crisis, arrests, demolitions and of course the 'usual' poor service delivery, which is in the DNA of the MDC. It is a year ratepayers quickly want to forget.

Coincidentally, the year marked exactly 20 years since the MDC took charge of the capital city, but has nothing to show for it except the continued, corruption, land scams and rampant deteriorating poor service delivery.

Early this year, Harare like any other local authorities across the globe battled the Covid-19 pandemic.

Industries temporarily shut down resulting in ratepayers struggling to pay their dues, but all that was overshadowed by the MDC-Alliance's drama. While the council may try to use Covid-19 as a scapegoat for poor service delivery which is worsening by the day, evidence on the ground is there for everyone to see.

Land scams and arrests The anti-corruption hawks opened a can of worms that exposed how MDC-Alliance councillors were stripping council of land to finance its subversive intentions and prepare for the 2023 harmonised elections while also sponsoring their leader Mr Nelson Chamisa sucked into the swirl of residential stands.

The Special Anti-Corruption Unit led by Mr Tabani Mpofu was at the forefront of exposing the rot. Among the first to be arrested was former Harare housing director and retired human resources director, Mathew Marara with 14 other employees, including junior ones, over a US$1, 1 million land scam.

The land scam involved the illegal sale of 150 stands in Kuwadzana, with irregularities in the approval of plans and production of fraudulent layout plans. While ratepayers were still to come to terms, MDC-Alliance mayor Hebert Gomba and seven other councillors from the same party were arrested over land scams.

Gomba was arrested for allegedly conniving with his accomplices to alter an approved layout plan belonging to Youth in Business Housing Trust.

In doing so, Gomba and his accomplices, allegedly converted State land into council land. They allocated the land to Taringana Housing Scheme, using the same plan number that was allocated to Youths in Business Trust.

All the councillors that sat on the Education, Housing and Community Services and Licensing Committee were also arrested over land scams. These are chair Cllr Hammy Madzingira (Ward 10), Cllr Lovemore Makuwerere (Ward 24), Cllr Tonderai Chakaredza (Ward 31), Cllr Costa Mande (Ward 14), and Cllr Anthony Shingadeya (Ward 11).

They connived with some 'greedy' managers and used their positions to illegally allocate stands to suspected lovers.

In the process they blocked ruling Zanu-PF -linked people from accessing residential stands, thereby accumulating massive wealth at the expense of service delivery.

Anti-corruption hawks cracked the whip and also arrested managers. These are the top boss, town clerk Hosiah Chisango together with housing director Addmore Nhekairo implicated in the illegal creation and allocation of stands on an open space in Kuwadzana 3 in July, 2019 without going through the legal process of changing land use.

The finance director Tendai Kwenda was also arrested on corruption allegations involving the US$8 million. Another top director, human resources capital boss Cainos Chingombe was also arrested on allegations of transferring more than US$130 000 meant for services to buy a personal top notch vehicle.

Leadership crisis and recalls Factional fights in the opposition politics also further paralysed the local authority. A fight pitting MDC-Alliance Mr Chamisa's camp and MDC-T led by Dr Thokozani Khupe resulted in the recalls.

Dr Khupe recalled MDC-Alliance loyalists including Gomba and six other councillors accusing them of being "errant" officials after they failed to respect her leadership. Few weeks later, Dr Khupe also axed other 11 councillors, including Harare deputy mayor Enoch Mupamawonde.

The drama continued as the city wanted a new mayor with MDC-Alliance candidate Jacob Mafume competing with Luckson Mukunguma who eventually lost and later became his deputy. Both were arrested over land scams less than month in office.

The year ended with Harare having no mayor. Local Government and Public Works Minister July Moyo, suspended Mafume together with Mukunguma, Madzingira, Mande, Shingadeya and Chakaredza. All have pending criminal court cases.

Mafume is in custody until next year after being denied bail on allegations of trying to bribe a potential key State witness in his forthcoming trial on corruption-related charges.

Harare now has 20 functioning councillors instead of the usual 46. While a council meeting requires just 17 councillors present to form a quorum, much of the work of the council is done in committees. Depending on the distribution of the vacancies, there were swathes of suburbs without representation pending by-elections.

Acting positions The city spent the better part of the year being run by people on an acting capacity as there are some decisions that required substantive heads.

This follows the arrest of substantive heads for compromising service delivery. Only three substantive heads were at the council Dr Prosper Chonzi (director health), Zvenyika Chawatama (director works) and Mabhena Moyo (director water).

The majority posts were being run on an acting capacity, acting town clerk Eng Chawatama, acting finance director Stanely Ndemera, acting chamber secretary Mr Charles Kandemiri, acting housing director Fani Machipisa among others. Poor service delivery Water woes were the order of the day.

No suburb received water on a daily basis across the city with some areas including Mabvuku having never received a droplet since the opposition took charge in 2000.

On numerous occasions, the city ran out of the essential water treatment chemicals as a result of huge debts with suppliers.

In October it owed Chemplex more than $350 million for the supply of chemicals. Lack of poor planning also worsened the water crisis as the chemicals would sometimes be stuck at the border leaving residents without the precious liquid for days posing a serious threat to disease outbreaks.

Harare needs about 1 200 mega-litres of water daily, but the city only managed to pump an average of 319 mega-litres.
 
The tag "stench city" best described the once glowing sunshine city in 2020 as garbage piled on illegal dump-sites all over Harare including the Central Business District. Refuse collection in suburbs was also a nightmare. Council roped in Clean City which also struggled to carry out its prescribed duties with the city fathers hinting on cancelling its deal.

The road network remains rugged with potholes. In 2020 council only managed to repair 1, 1km against an own set target of 120km. Motorists had a nightmarish experience navigating the roads. Many traffic lights at major Harare intersections are either not working or working intermittently.

This has been creating massive traffic jams especially when there is a sequence of failed robots along a road. Street lighting remains bad and is getting worse. The city also faced serious bin shortages in some instances forcing passers to dump waste on street corners and storm drains.

Projects The construction of vending stalls at the corner of Seke and Dieppe roads, commonly referred to as the Coke Corner, failed to take shape for the entire year despite council having finished erecting the structural framework in March.

City fathers were also being exposed for what now appears to be empty talk on sprucing up bus terminuses across the city, leaving passengers exposed to rains and scorching heat due to lack of shelter.

Despite having attempted to refurbish Copacabana terminus where shoddy work was done, other terminuses have remained in a sorry state for years, leaving the council with a mountain to climb on its ambitious plan to be a World Class City in the next five years. Demolitions The MDC councillors also went on a rampage demolishing houses in areas like Budiriro leaving residents and their property exposed to rains.

Surprisingly, council refused to take ownership of their actions. Cabinet had to intervene barring the local authority from effecting court orders allowing demolitions of illegally-built houses until the rain season is over. Government said while it fully upholds the rule of law and does not interfere with the Judiciary and council court orders, it should be sensitive on its timing when implementing the orders.

Achievements There was nothing much to celebrate for the local authority in 2020 as even in areas where they were offered a hand, the officials would still misappropriate the funds.

A case in point is when the council awarded a tender for palisade fencing and refurbishment of Mbare Bus Terminus to a local company when the same work had already been done for free by transport operators.

The council tender delayed the reopening of the bus terminus despite completion of the work to the standards agreed between the council and the donors. It is assumed the delay was meant to allow the company in question to do some work and justify the tender awarded to it.

Source - the herald
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