Innocent Ruwende and Nyemudzai Kakore—
Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Minister Saviour Kasukuwere has suspended Chitungwiza Mayor Phillip Mutoti and all 24 councillors for allegedly corruptly allocating themselves tracts of land worth over $7 million. Chitungwiza Municipality has 14 MDC-T councillors, including Mayor Mutoti and 11 Zanu-PF councillors. The minister will appoint a three-person caretaker council to clean up the rot in the municipality.
An internal audit shows councillors and officials allocated themselves commercial and institutional stands.
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.
The councillors were given seven days to respond after they were summoned to the parent ministry together with management to answer to the charges.
Minister Kasukuwere said the municipality was plagued by poor governance, negligible service delivery and outright corruption.
The municipality serves a population of nearly half a million people.
“I have therefore suspended from council all 25 councillors and given them seven days in which to respond to the various allegations made against them.
“These allegations include rampant abuse of state land for personal benefit by both councillors and officials,” he said.
He accused them of “ . . . flagrant disregard for laid down procedures for estate management, the failure to manage the housing development within the council area, the disregard for the law and for circulars and directives issued by the Ministry and the general malaise of the council.”
Minister Kasukuwere said from the poor management exhibited, he had no alternative but to take stern measures which should bring the municipality into line with norms and standards of sound local governance.
He said the caretaker council would ensure long-standing housing stand conflicts were resolved and transparency in the allocation of houses and service provision.
“The Ministry has sent investigators, drawn up recovery plans, written numerous letters, placed various sanctions on the council but the problems still persist. The relationship between the council and the residents it was established to serve is at an all-time low resulting in almost complete breakdown of dialogue of any sort,” he said.
Councillors interviewed by The Herald said the suspensions were not fair as the Minister based his charges on a biased audit report.
It is not the first time Minister Kasukuwere has suspended councillors. In 2015, the Minister suspended Gweru Mayor Hamutendi Kombayi, his deputy Artwell Manyorauta and 14 councillors on allegations of gross misconduct, incompetence and mismanagement of council funds and affairs.
Thirteen of the suspended councillors are from the MDC-T while three were from the ruling Zanu-PF.
The council was accused of failure to provide basic services with residents going for months without potable water while sewer bursts and potholes had become a common sight.