Ministerial Statement - 4th May 2017 - Suspension of Chitungwiza Town Councillors

In the National Assembly Thursday 4th May 2017

 

MINISTERIAL STATEMENT

SUSPENSION OF CHITUNGWIZA MUNICIPALITY COUNCILLORS

THE MINISTER OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT, PUBLIC WORKS AND NATIONAL HOUSING (HON. KASUKUWERE): Mr. Speaker, I wish to make a Ministerial Statement to Parliament on the suspension of Chitungwiza Municipality Councillors.

The Chitungwiza Municipal Councillors have been suspended from office in terms of Section 114 of the urban Councils Act [Chapter 29:15], [as read with the Local Government Laws Amendment Act]. This has been necessitated by the continued high levels of maladministration, non-compliance with laid down procedures and practices and corrupt practices by the Councillors.

Twenty-four of the twenty-five Councillors have been served with letters of suspension, in terms of section 114(2)(b) of the Urban Councils Act. The suspended Councillors have all been afforded the opportunity to defend themselves and were asked to respond to the charges in writing, within seven days. Thereafter, the responses will be studied and suspensions will be uplifted for Councillors who are not guilty of the charges. However, where no sound argument against the allegations is proffered the case/s will be referred to an Independent Tribunal appointed in terms of Section 157A of the Act. The Independent Tribunal will hear the matter in order to establish whether or not the accused Councillors are guilty of gross misconduct or wilful violation of the law and give a determination as prescribed in the Fourth Schedule of the Urban Councils Act [Chapter 29:15].

Chitungwiza Municipality has twenty-five Councillors, fourteen from MDC-T and eleven from ZANU-PF. The Municipality has been marred by administrative and political problems for a number of years. The Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing tried a number of interventions aimed at resolving the challenges bedeviling the Council but Chitungwiza Municipality did not listen and chose to continue with its destructive path at the expense of service delivery.

The current problems facing Chitungwiza Municipality are as follows:

1. Service delivery is virtually at a standstill with heaps of uncollected garbage, numerous sewer bursts and blackages, little or no water supplies, as debts to Harare City mount up with no payment plan in sight. In addition, there is a complete lack of development control and little or no by-law enforcement.

2. There is rampant abuse of Council and Stateland resulting in both Councillors and their officials cashing in on large tracts of land for personal gain. Wetlands and land set aside for a

cemetery have also not been spared as these have been subdivided and sold to unsuspecting home seekers. These pieces of land have not been paid for.

3. There is a flagrant disregard for the Management of Stateland Manual in allocation procedures with no referral to the Council waiting list, which is supposed to be the basis for all allocations. Many stands are disposed of without proper documentation.

4. Council is releasing land allocated before the said land is paid for and the same land is then resold at large profits to individuals by Council officials and Councillors.

5. Councillors and staff have abused their offices to repossess stands from real beneficiaries.

6. There is lack of systems which create a conducive environment for corruption. Even where cases of corruption are exposed, disciplinary action has not been taken.

7. The Council has, on several occasions resolved to disregard the urban Councils Act, including utilizing capital funds collected under the Estates account for the payment of wages to the detriment of servicing residential stands.

8. Council chooses to defy/ignore circulars and directives issued, resulting in unnecessary expenditure. An example is the recent resolution to increase Councillors unapproved travel allowances for a 24 hour period from the stipulated $95,00 to $300,00.

9. The Executive is reluctant to advise Councillors who end up coming up with resolutions that are ultra-vires.

10. Checks and balances are not in force since Councillors and officers are conspiring in their illegal activities, thereby prejudicing Council of millions of dollars.

11. Communication with rate payers has completely broken down resulting in a continuous stream of persons coming to the Ministry offices to lodge complaints. There is no other Council in Zimbabwe that has faced so many demonstrations, which

have resulted in Council officials hiring security guards to protect them from angry residents.

12. The Council is technically bankrupt and efforts to curtail unnecessary expenditure have been ignored. The Council budget submission was turned down twice in 2016 and once in 2017 by the Ministry, in order to make corrections and to ensure compliance.

13. The Council has a huge workforce that is not working as there are no resources to equip them. Moreover, the workers have not been paid for the past 14 months.

The Intervention

The above mentioned challenges forced the Ministry to invoke Section 114 of the Urban Councils Act, [as read with the Local Government Laws Amendment Act], thereby suspending all twenty-five Councillors. The disciplinary procedures have been put in place. To keep the Council running whilst disciplinary procedures are being taken, a Caretaker Council was appointed in terms of Section 80 of the Urban Councils Act.

The following Caretakers have been appointed:-

§  Mr. M.S Pawadyira, a retired civil servant with vast local government experience and who has served on a number of caretaker councils.

§  Ms. Z. Chisango, the District Administrator for Chitungwiza, who has been instrumental in reporting maladministration and who is aware of the situation on the ground.

§  Cde Joshua Mabiza, a former councilor of Chitungwiza and a local businessman.

The terms of reference for the Caretakers are as follows:

1. To reverse all illegal land acquisition mentioned in the two investigations reports and the internal audit report on land abuse and to institute correctional measures to prevent similar occurrences of land abuse.

2. To oversee the taking of disciplinary action against staff implicated in the reports.

3. To oversee the putting in place of proper procedures with regards to estate management.

4. To put forward options for the provision of services to areas where stands have been sold to home seekers.

5. To review all resolutions of Council taken since 2013 and rescind those that is ultra-vires.

6. To establish a formal complaints system for use by members of the public and open dialogue with the community.

7. To take any other steps necessary for the return to normalcy of Chitungwiza Municipality.

The Ministry has also instructed the Provincial Administrator for Harare Province and the department of Housing and Social Amenities to assist the Caretakers in undertaking their roles. The Minister of State for Harare Province is fully informed of the situation. I thank you Mr. Speaker.

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