WHEN the hyena wants to eat its children, it accuses them of smelling like goats, goes a famous African proverb. The proverb means providing justification for an action which might seem unpalatable.
The proverb was replayed this week after Harare Provincial Affairs and Devolution secretary Tafadzwa Muguti threatened to appoint commissions if local authorities fail.
“If you repeat what you did last year, I don’t want to lie to you, this time around, there will be no acting. I will put a commission in place. I have warned you,” Muguti said while superintending over the election of Chitungwiza mayor and his deputy on Monday.
The threat of commissions was expected after urban voters rejected the ruling Zanu PF candidates in elections for councillors despite concerted efforts by the party to wrest the local authorities from the opposition.
In the run-up to last month’s polls, Zanu PF was flagging the excesses of the opposition-led local authorities.
Appointment of commissions to run council business was commonplace during the late former President Robert Mugabe’s reign when he used former Local Government minister Ignatius Chombo to do the hatchet job.
The commissions failed to resolve the problems facing local authorities, despite fattening the wallets of a select few.
Harare’s last elected executive mayor Elias Mudzuri was in office for two years. He was replaced by a commission which failed to resolve the problems facing the city.
Since the abolition of executive mayors in 2008, central government has been accused of interfering with the operations of local authorities.
The abolition of the executive followed Mugabe’s assenting to the Local Government Laws Amendment Bill which gave rise to ceremonial mayors.
The law gives unfettered powers to the of Local Government minister to fire mayors at will and the ministry has the final say on the appointment of town clerks.
Bernard Manyenyeni was suspended as mayor in 2016 for unprocedurally appointing banker James Mushore as town clerk.
The last Harare City Council term was disrupted as the Local Government ministry suspended mayors at will.
Jacob Mafume was in and out of Town House. Last year, High Court judge Justice Joseph Mafusire reinstated Mafume, setting aside a letter written by then Local Government minister July Moyo suspending the mayor for the fourth time.
We are of the view that commissions are not the solution to the problems bedevilling our local authorities. Rather, councils should be allowed to run their operations without interference from central government in the spirit of devolution.
This does not mean the opposition-led local authorities have not strayed from their mandates.
They have, on numerous ocassions, been found wanting especially in the allocation of land where some councillors were caught with their hands in the cookie jar.
The government remains the biggest let down for local authorities. Ministries, departments and agencies owe local authorities huge sums of money in unpaid rates.
The government also does not timeously release devolution funds.
It has procured equipment for local authorities like fire tenders without councillors’ consent.
We are of the view that reintroduction of executive mayors will solve the bulk of the problems afflicting local authorities.