Blessings Chidakwa Municipal Correspondent
A leadership crisis has hit Chitungwiza Municipality following the suspension of senior management pending finalisation of criminal cases involving the sale of vast tracts of land.
Government has since written to the municipality notifying them of the suspension of acting town clerk Engineer David Duma and housing director Mrs Hazel Sithole, which a full council meeting endorsed on Tuesday.
Duma and Sithole allegedly sold a commercial stand for the construction of a service station in Seke without following laid-down procedures.
The pair is alleged to have unlawfully sold another commercial stand at Chigovanyika Shopping Centre in St Mary’s.
A letter from Local Government and Public Works Minister July Moyo announcing the suspension was read during a full council meeting on Tuesday.
Reads part of the letter: “I am concerned that, despite having been charged with abuse of office, the acting town clerk Engineer David Duma and the Director of Housing and Community Services Mrs Hazel Sithole remain in office.
“It is standard practice, in line with Part IX of the Urban Council’s Act, to conduct an investigation and institute disciplinary processes against the officials who are charged with criminal activities. I believe that their presence at the council offices may hamper police investigations and that evidence may well be tampered with in contravention of their bail con- ditions.
“I, therefore, order the council, in terms of Section 316 of the Urban Councils Act to correct this omission and to remove the two officials from the council offices pending the conclusion of their disciplinary process. I would urge Chitungwiza Municipality not to engage in any activity that has the effect of undermining the investigation.”
The council has since appointed heath director Dr Tonderai Kasu as the acting town clerk.
Chitungwiza Residents’ Trust (Chitrest) director Mrs Alice Kuvheya welcomed the pair’s suspension.
“As residents we view this as the right move because if the pair has allegations (hanging over them) they should not obstruct justice, but let police officers do their investigations until justice prevails.
“As Chitrest, when they appointed Eng Duma we were alarmed because he was under investigation together with the mayor and some councillor accused of selling land at Chigovanyika. We thank God that this has happened and we pray that justice will prevail to the advantage of ratepayers,” she said.
Chitungwiza Progressive Residents’ Association secretary-general Mr Gift Kurupati said it was their sincere hope that whatever was happening will serve the interests of residents and that it was not politically motivated.
“Where there are issues, the law must take its course. However, it is our considered view that whatever the outcome should not affect service delivery, neither should it prejudice council and us as residents in the form of costs.
“We hope the directive issued has no legal challenges and that the minister must allow the council to run its affairs without interference from central Government in line with devolution,” he said.
Government has ordered council to stop allocation of land for any purpose until the suspension is lifted.