via Chombo what are you up to? – DailyNews Live by Bridget Mananavire 9 FEBRUARY 2014
Against a backdrop of resistance from residents, councillors, fellow politicians and the nation at large, Local Government minister Ignatious Chombo remains adamant that Harare town clerk Tendai Mahachi should be reinstated after being suspended by mayor Bernard Manyenyeni.
Zimbabweans are wondering why Chombo is seemingly protecting Mahachi and asking the minister what he is up to at a time when government seems to be on a path to root out corruption in public entities.
Residents, interest groups and former councillors are now asking: What is Chombo up to? What is his agenda and where will this end?
Manyenyeni suspended Mahachi last week pending investigations into allegations of failing to discharge his duties and furnishing council with the salary schedule for Town House bosses, as the fight against corruption in Zimbabwe rages on.
Chombo has in the past been implicated in shoddy land dealings in Harare and in some of the investigations conducted by different probe committees, the name Mahachi appeared prominently.
At least two reports have been made to police on Chombo and Mahachi’s land deals, but nothing has materialised.
Elected Councillors Association of Zimbabwe (ECAZ) president Warship Dumba, who led a comprehensive land probe in the Harare City Council five years ago, said Chombo’s quick action to even call a press conference during the weekend to reinstate Mahachi proves that he had interests to protect.
“Mahachi was appointed by Chombo from Air Zimbabwe; he is Chombo’s point man in all the land deals he has been implicated in,” said Dumba a former councillor, who was fired by the minister soon after his widely-commended probe.
“Mahachi and Chombo have been involved in a lot of urban planning activities and if Mahachi is removed from Town House then the minister fears for the worst.
“Why is he worried of Mahachi’s suspension? What is so special about Mahachi that he can’t be suspended. Let the truth come out?”
He said the whole communication setup at Town House was weird.
“Mahachi should be reporting to the mayor and then the mayor takes it forward to the minister, meaning the mayor is Mahachi’s boss,” Dumba said.
He said under normal circumstances, the full council should seal Mahachi’s fate, and the mayor would then forward their recommendations to the local government board which would make the final determination.
Chombo is also facing legal battles with residents who believe he is overstepping his mandate.
Tawanda Zhuwarara, a human rights lawyer and ratepayer, has given Chombo an ultimatum to reverse his directive for the reinstatement of Mahachi or take him to court.
Zhuwarara said Chombo’s actions are objectionable and that his purported powers in terms of Section 314 of the Urban Councils Act can only be exercised with regards to councils and not mayoral decisions.
The Harare resident said Chombo’s directive was premature and a nullity at law since the city is yet to make its determination in terms of Section 139 (4) of the Urban Councils Act.
He said it is only after the process in terms of Section 139 (4) of the Urban Councils Act has been completed, does the suspension of Mahachi become a resolution of the council.
Harare residents, through the Combined Harare Residents Association (Chra) also threatened to boycott paying rates and take to the streets if council fails to avail top management salaries within seven days.
Chra said they were prepared to take the city to court to block payment of salaries for public officials “until the matter has been resolved”.
An interest group, Restoration of Human Rights Zimbabwe (ROHR) weighed in and supported Manyenyeni all the way.
In a statement, RHRH said: “Fundamentally as the residents of the City of Harare, and in particular as human rights defenders in Zimbabwe, we would like to commend you for the noble decision you took on the 30th of January that is to suspend the town clerk Mr T Mahachi. The man deserved to be shown the red card!
“You acted within the provisions of both the Urban Councils Act and the Zimbabwean Constitution. We therefore, urge you to ignore minister Chombo’s calls for you to reverse this people-centred decision.”
“As residents and human rights advocates, we are happy with your performance so far as the principal officer at Town House is concerned. We have taken this mass demonstration against minister Chombo and Mahachi just as a way of showing you that the people are with you.
“Your worship, please continue to defend the residents of Harare, knowing fully well that Human Rights Zimbabwe and indeed the people of Harare are fully behind you and your team.”