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Mafume exposes MDC Alliance's poor leadership pedigree

19 Feb 2021 at 06:48hrs | Views
Last week, social media was on fire when the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Mr Nick Mangwana revealed that despite getting three times less in the Zimbabwe National Road Administration (ZINARA) funding allocation than Harare, Bulawayo's roads were better maintained.  

This did not go down well with suspended Harare mayor, Jacob Mafume, who crept out of the woodworks guns blazing in defence of both his council and the municipality.

While it was his right to respond to Mr Mangwana and other participants to the discourse, it is his responses which left many people with more questions than answers over the MDC-Alliance councillor's leadership mettle.

This explained why the once clean Sunshine City had degenerated into a garbage city under the watch of successive MDC councils. It came out of the interaction among Zimbabweans on Twitter that the City of Harare had received a total of $86 million from Zimbabwe National Road Administration (ZINARA) in 2020, but the local authority's representative, Mafume, could not satisfactorily explain how the municipality he oversees used the funds.

Instead of accounting for the public funds, Mafume in typical MDC-Alliance arrogance, which has become his vice president Tendai Biti's trademark, chose to dwell on the value of the funds.

He claimed that the "money is only useful for grass cutting."  The issue was not so much about the value of the allocation. It was about principle and not quantity. What irked most Harare residents was the fact that most verges of Harare's severely potholed roads are overgrown by uncut grass.  

Some residents such as those in Marlborough have to cut grass along some sections of Harare Drive at their own expense as if they do not pay rates. Mafume's response also indicated that he was not happy that the funds were in local currency and not in foreign currency.  

It is strange that he expects to pay his toll gate fees in local currency, but still insists that ZINARA pays the City of Harare's allocation in foreign currency.

Such are the double standards that the MDC-Alliance's leaders live by. While it was agreed that the funds provided by ZINARA were not enough to resurface Harare's over 300 000 kilometres of roads, the man who insists that he is Harare's mayor failed to account for public funds.

No one believed his claims that the funds had been channelled towards legacy debts.  Instead of telling Harareans what his council and the municipality that it oversees were doing to mobilise resources to complement the road rehabilitation allocations from ZINARA, Mafume blamed Government for handing the motor vehicle licensing function to the correct body, ZINARA.  

He complained that "Government took over in 2009 through ZINARA. Since then no meaningful new roads have been built in Harare. The road vehicle licences need to come back to cities, international best practice."

This could be the international best practice elsewhere, but one would not want to believe that wherever it happens, they also have the kind of councillors that Harare has who take offence when asked to account for public funds.  

Even if Mafume was telling the truth, no one is going to believe him because his arrogance and the way he responded left many people in no doubt that his council and municipality could not account for the funds.  

He displayed unwillingness to account for the funds. His attitude was one of someone who did not want to be asked to account for anything. One supposes that this is what his party's concept of smart cities entails.

Although he was pressed into promising that the City of Harare would provide a detailed breakdown of how the funds were spent, it is known that the local authority lost the last allocation of $40 million from ZINARA when the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA) garnished its bank accounts in December 2020 to recover $115 million in unpaid taxes.  

Mafume could not tweet this as it would reflect badly on both his council and the municipal executives at Rowan Martin Building.  

No poor financial stewardship surpasses not paying taxes, especially by a local authority administering tax payers and rate payers' funds.

As in the cases of the city's roads, which the municipality has deliberately abandoned in an ill-advised and unreasonable attempt to force Government into restoring the lucrative motor vehicle licensing function to the municipality, the City of Harare abandoned basic services like refuse collection.

This led to mounds of uncollected refuse in the city centre, residential areas and places such as the Mbare Musika.  The idea was to force Government to instruct ZIMRA to reverse the garnishee order by leaving garbage uncollected.

The Environmental Management Agency (EMA) had to issue an ultimatum to the local authority and even gave it a tractor for use in the removal of garbage.

For those who have not been following the City of Harare's financial mess, in September 2019, Government wrote off $135 million in penalties accumulated over the years on $30 million unpaid taxes.

The write off left the municipality debt to ZIMRA at $170 million at the time.

Mafume's attitude and arrogance was a window into the MDC Alliance's unprofessional and very poor leadership style.  In fact, talking of leadership and the MDC-Alliance in the same sentence would be a gross mistake.

When past Harare mayors, Muchadeyi Masunda and Bernard Manyenyeni complained of the poor calibre of MDC Alliance, one thought they were referring to the politicians who become councillors on the basis of political popularity.  

It is sad that even learned lawyers like Mafume, from whom professionalism is expected, also behave like their uncouth counterparts.

The MDC Alliance's 20-year stewardship of the city of Harare and other cities and towns has been characterised by the prioritisation of self-enrichment at the expense of service delivery.

Over the years, its corrupt self-enrichment activities have become more brazen.  Under Mafume's charge, councillors tried to sell Mt Pleasant Sports Club, a wetland. His predecessor Herbert Gomba attempted to sell the Old Hararians Club land in Milton Park.  

It is interesting to note that all these deals came after the party's traditional Western funders abandoned it after the 2013 elections upon realising that the MDC could not unseat Zanu-PF.  All these corrupt deals were carried out under Nelson Chamisa's watch.  

In October 2019, Chamisa sent his friend, Thabani Mpofu, to "investigate" corruption by councillors in the 28 local authorities that the MDC Alliance dominates.  

Over a year later, Mpofu is yet to present any findings to Zimbabwe. He is unlikely to present any anytime soon. This shows that his mission was only calculated to pull wool over Zimbabweans' eyes, while the party continues to sell the cities and towns' assets for its own benefit.  

Mpofu's assignment demonstrated that Chamisa condones corruption in the local authorities that his party controls. Mafume's behaviour showed the world that the MDC Alliance's idea of a councillor is to use public funds anyhow without accounting to anyone.  

Since his election as mayor in September last year, Mafume has demonstrated that to be MDC-Alliance means using every opportunity to fight Government.

While councillors are chosen through a political process, the party should know that the electorate does not give them a mandate to fight Government, but a duty to partner Government to improve the quality of ratepayers and residents' life through service.  

The MDC-Alliance has proved to Harareans that it does not know that politics end the moment they are elected.  Once in office, they are civic leaders who should prioritise serving the people and not use them for their own narrow political ends.

Source - the herald
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