Harare Mayor Jacob Mafume, his deputy Luckson Mukunguma and four other councillors have been suspended by Local Government and Public Works Minister July Moyo pending the outcome of their criminal trials.
Mafume is remanded in custody after he was denied bail on his second set of charges, which relate to allegations that he tried to interfere with a witness in his first case, for which he had been granted bail.
Mukunguma and a host of councillors — Hammy Madzingira (Ward 10), Costa Mande (Ward 14), Anthony Shingadeya (Ward 11) and Tonderai Chakaredza (Ward 31) — are out on bail on corruption-related charges involving land allocations.
According to the suspension letters, the councillors are being charged with gross incompetence and misconduct of duty after they allegedly approached the now suspended housing director Mr Addmore Nhekairo to illegally allocate stands to relatives and cronies who were not on the housing waiting list.
Harare will now have just 20 functioning councillors instead of the usual 46. Councillors were elected on the MDC-Alliance ticket and a batch were recalled by the MDC-T leaving a number of vacancies. Besides these, there are also councillors on remand and now suspension on allegations of corrupt allocation of land.
While a council meeting requires just 17 councillors present to form a quorum, much of the work of the council is done in committees and depending on the distribution of the vacancies, there may be swathes of suburbs without representation until by-elections are held.
Permanent Secretary for Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Mr Nick Mangwana confirmed the suspensions on his Twitter handle yesterday.
“Harare Mayor Mafume, his deputy councillor Mukunguma and four other Harare councillors who have cases pending before the courts have been suspended by the Minister of Local Government until the finalisation of their cases,” he said.
Clr Shingadeya confirmed his suspension, though he said he was yet to officially receive the notice.
Mafume was arrested by the Special Anti-Corruption Unit (SACU) working together with the Police Anti-Corruption Unit on allegations of trying to bribe a potential key State witness in his forthcoming trial on corruption-related charges involving the allocation of two stands, barely six days after being granted bail by the High Court and a few hours after sailing through a routine remand.
The High Court granted Mafume $30 000 bail under strict conditions, which included not interfering with State witnesses on his original charges of abusing his office by arranging the allocation of council stands to his sister Rotina Mafume and his law firm’s secretary Rutendo Muvuti, although neither was on the waiting list or was in line for such an allocation.
Mukunguma was also arrested on allegations of unprocedurally selling residential stands in Highfield.
According to ZACC, Mukunguma went into hiding after being invited for questioning and was arrested in Hwange following a manhunt.
In August, SACU arrested four councillors that all sat on the Education, Housing and Community Services and Licensing Committee including chair Madzingira, Mande, Shingadeya and Chakaredza.
They were arrested on charges of public abuse of office involving sales of council land, allegedly without following laid down procedures.
Among top officials recently arrested are former mayor Herbert Gomba, town clerk Hosiah Chisango, Nhekairo, human capital director Cainos Chingombe and finance director Tendai Kwenda.