Local Government Bill before President

Source: Local Government Bill before President | The Sunday Mail Jul 31, 2016

President Mugabe is now scrutinising the Local Government Laws Amendment (2016) Bill after it was passed by both the National Assembly and Senate a fortnight ago.

The Bill, should the President sign it into law, will align the Urban Council’s Act and Rural District Councils Act with the Constitution of Zimbabwe; and establish an independent tribunal to adjudicate the suspension or firing of mayors, chairpersons or councillors of local authorities. The legislation attracted debate in the Lower House with opposition members alleging it was “fast-tracked without intensive consultation”.

President Mugabe can either sign the Bill into law or cause its reintroduction to Parliament.

In a Government Gazette published last Friday, National Assembly Speaker Advocate Jacob Mudenda said: “In terms of Section 131(5)(b) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, it is hereby notified that on the 21st July, 2016, the Local Government Laws Amendment (2016) Bill was transmitted to His Excellency, the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe for his assent and signature.”

The Bill comes complaints from residents and civic movements that the Minister of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing could unilaterally suspend or fire of mayors, chairpersons and councillors.

The new law will provide for establishment of a three-member independent tribunal to deal with such cases.

The tribunal will be composed of a lawyer registered by the Law Society of Zimbabwe and two others seconded by the Civil Service Commission with experience in local government administration and/or a registered chartered accountant.

According to the Local Government Laws Amendment, the Local Government Minister is now required — after notifying a mayor, chairperson or councillor of his/her suspension — to cause a thorough investigation into the allegations.

Reads part of the Bill, “Not earlier than 14 days after the minister has suspended a chairperson or councillor . . . and in any event within 45 days, the minister shall, if no response (by the aggrieved person) is made (within seven days) to a notice (citing grounds for suspension) . . . The minister may cause a thorough investigation to be conducted, where necessary, with all reasonable dispatch to determine whether sufficient evidence exists for the removal of the chairperson and councillor.”

The Bill says upon completion of investigations, the tribunal shall within 30 days inform the respondent of the nature of allegations levelled against them and seek a response.

It is the duty of the tribunal to determine whether a council official is innocent or guilty and reinstate or remove that person from office through a notification to the affected party, responsible minister and the local authority concerned.