Innocent Ruwende Senior Reporter
Harare and Chitungwiza residents associations have taken Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Minister July Moyo to court over his decision to appoint caretaker commissions to run councils on an interim basis until new councils are sworn in.
The associations argue that the decision is “spurious, unsustainable and in breach of the country’s Constitution” which stipulates that councillors should be sworn in by the ninth day after elections.
Section 277 (3) of the Constitution states that: “except as otherwise provided in subsection (2) or an Act of Parliament, mayors, chairpersons and councillors of local authorities assume office on the 9th day after the announcement of the results of the general election in which the councillors were elected.”
In the urgent chamber application filed at the High Court, City of Harare acting town clerk Engineer Hosiah Chisango is cited as the second respondent, while Chitungwiza town clerk Dr George Makunde is the third respondent.
Chairpersons of commissions running Chitungwiza and Harare are also cited as respondents.
In the founding affidavit, Community Water Alliance national chairperson Hildarberta Rwambiwa argues that in terms of Section 85 of the Constitution, they have the right to approach the court seeking appropriate relief, including declaration of rights.
“On August 10 this year, The Herald and NewsDay published that the first respondent had appointed commissioners to preside over local authorities before the swearing in of new councillors,” reads the affidavit.
“Fourth and ninth respondents are the appointed commissioners to preside over the affairs in respect of Harare and Chitungwiza municipalities respectively.
“Such appointment was purportedly made in terms of Section 80 of the Urban Councils Act which gives the first respondent power to appoint commissioners to act as council. Shortly after becoming aware of the appointment of commissioners’ first applicant wrote a letter to the acting town clerk for City of Harare seeking explanation as to why elected councillors were not being sworn in.”
The Community Water Alliance, which was supported by the Combined Harare Residents Association (second applicant), Chitungwiza and Manyame Residents Association (third applicant), argues that failure to get a response prompted them to seek legal advice.
The associations argue that they were advised that the appointment of commissioners was in blatant violation of the Constitution which stipulates that councillors should be sworn in by the 9th day after being elected. They argue that it is a negation of the will of the people for Minister Moyo to appoint commissioners on the very day that the elected are supposed to be sworn in.
“The first respondent’s decision is illegal, substantively and procedurally unfair and fails to uphold and/or comply with the law,” reads the affidavit. “The applicants’ right to administrative justice has been infringed by the first respondent.”
The associations are seeking an order to declare the appointment of the caretaker commissions as invalid.