Innocent Ruwende Senior Reporter—
Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Minister Saviour Kasukuwere has appointed a caretaker commission for Chitungwiza Town Council led by retired civil servant Mr Madzudzo Pawadyira tasked with reversing illegal land acquisitions. This follows the minister’s decision earlier in the week to suspend Mayor Phillip Mutoti and all 24 councillors for allegedly corruptly allocating themselves tracts of land worth over $7 million.
An internal audit showed that councillors and officials allocated themselves commercial and institutional stands for a song.
Principal director (Urban Local Authorities), Ms Erica Jones said the other two members of the commission were Chitungwiza district administrator Ms Zvivanai Chisango and retired councillor Joshua Mabhiza.
The commission will carry out all functions of council except levying, rates and taxes.
To fix new charges, the commission would require ministerial permission.
“Their special focus areas will be to reverse all illegal land acquisitions as outlined in two audit reports, institute correctional measures to prevent similar occurrences and oversee the putting in place of proper procedures for estate management,” said Ms Jones.
“They will also be required to put forward options for provision of services to the areas where unserviced stands were sold to home-seekers, to oversee disciplinary action against staff implicated in corruption and to review resolutions since 2013 and rescind those that are illegal,” she said.
The commission will also be expected to establish a formal complaint system for the public to improve dialogue and to take any other steps necessary to restore normalcy to Chitungwiza Municipality.
Chitungwiza Residents’ Trust director Mr Marvellous Khumalo said residents did not condone corruption.
“Justice should take its course. We, however, feel that local authorities should be allowed to operate independently and the ministry should be there to protect residents as outlined in the country’s Constitution. The move by the ministry however, seems more of interference than protection of residents,” said Mr Khumalo.
“We have had about five caretaker commissions in Chitungwiza to address the same matters. They come and run their lap, but leave the same problems unresolved after draining the resources of the local authority. Employees of the same council have gone for 24 months without salaries, but the commissioners will be paid,” he said.
Mr George Mhizha of Unit K, Chitungwiza, said the move was a timely intervention as the situation was deteriorating.
“The councillors were literally acting like officials at council. They would go from office to office making sure their illegal deals were processed at the expense of residents who have to queue for a service they never receive,” he said.
He said the minister should also get rid of the entire management as it was failing to run the council.
Another resident who only identified herself as Michelle said there was no service delivery to talk about in Chitungwiza.
“The city fathers have been watching deteriorating service delivery while doing nothing to censure officials. Now we know that it was because they were concentrating on lining their pockets. We hope the commission will be able to restore sanity,” he said.
Mr Tapfuma Mhike of Manyame Park said the move by Minister Kasukuwere was long overdue.
“Government has been folding its arms for too long while watching us being reduced to villagers. We have no roads here and sewage is everywhere. We are exposed to diseases and we are lucky to have survived this long,” said Mr Mhike.
“The Minister should make sure the councillors do not come back because they do not have a purpose at the municipality.”
An internal audit showed that human resources manager Mary Mukonyora got 8,41 hectares, Clr Simbiso Mhike (8,413 hectares), Clr Nicholas Mashayamombe (3, 839ha) and Clr Charamba Mlambo (46 stands).
Other councillors also benefited from the looting spree.
The audit revealed councillors and staff allocated themselves stands/land and undercharged by as much as $200 and proceeded to sell the same stands for $5 000 each.