Residents have said Harare City Council has been compromised by corruption and is now unable to function or execute its duties and responsibilities.
Article by Shepherd Shalvar Chikomba, ZNOART National Chairman
4 February 2021
‘WILL JUSTICE TAKE ITS COURSE FOR HARARE RESIDENTS AMID THE CORRUPTION STORM?’ FROM RESIDENTS’ CORNER
The Zimbabwe National Organization of Associations of Residents Trust (ZNOART) is once again in a quandary regarding how best to placate the wailing and shrieking voices of agonized Harare City residents, amid revelations that the retributive and restorative justice they have yearned for may, after all, just end up being a mere pipeline dream – in essence, it may be a will-o-the-wisp! As the apex residents’ representative organ that oversees the service delivery matrices in all the councils nationwide, ZNOART hereby register great concern over the state of affairs bedeviling the Harare Municipality.
Following the spurt of negative publicity implicating the top managers of the Harare Municipality on serious allegations of gross misconduct, bordering on graft, abuse of office and land scams, the prospects of relying on such a tainted team to commandeer the premier council towards the coveted ‘World Class City’ by 2025 are not only bleak, but an illusion. As the nation has warmed up to Vision of a Middle Economy by 2030, buoyed by the clarion call for accountability, responsibility and integrity in discharge of duty by both public and private sector personnel, it was hoped that by now the City of Harare would have configured a ‘construction squad’ (to rebuild and patch up the tainted corporate image of the local authority), instead of relying upon the crop of fiendish-minded elements who constitute a ‘demolition squad’ that is keen on looting and destroying the Harare Municipality into debris. To this end, ZNOART lobbies for urgent measures that could quickly fix the mess and ‘disinfect’ the pungent and reeking filth that irks the mind.
It is now common knowledge that City of Harare top managers and some Councilors have been accused of very serious corruption charges and those accused have been arrested on the basis of documented evidence. Under normal circumstances, all the managers who are implicated in such cases should have gone through an internal hearing process to determine if, indeed, the allegations leveled against them are true and, if found as such, appropriate action would be duly taken for retributive justice. However, this has not happened partly because those who should preside over the council hearings are either implicated in these corrupt activities or have been suspended by a Town Clerk who is on bail on several charges but has been inadvertently allowed to exercise executive authority when he is under restraint by the courts. Equally disturbing is a situation where Councilors who are on bail continue to play a cat and mouse game with the law and blatantly violate the law by attempting to assume office when on suspension by the Ministry of Local Government. Councilor Mkunguma Luckson inappropriately caused the reinstatement of staff that have pending cases in court against a position already taken to prevent interference with evidence and witnesses. If such actions do not amount to professional arrogance and a willful disregard for the law, where then are we going as a City and can we as residents have assurance that the City will recover from the current effects of mismanagement?
Failure to invoke Council procedures when there are such serious allegations clearly demonstrates that Council is now totally unable to function and is no longer in a position to carry out its mandate competently. There is no longer any excuse to allow this administratively-insecure environment to continue unchecked beyond this point. The entire administration at City of Harare is now a liability to both the Harare residents and the nation at large. Against this background, ZNOART implores Central Government to immediately step in to serve the situation before the morass degenerates beyond redemption.
The investigations into all the transgressions were conducted by a legitimate City Council Department whose mandate is to ensure that all cases of misconduct, corruption and abuse of office are investigated and, where there is clear evidence that criminal actions were committed, such cases are referred to relevant state agencies that have investigative and prosecution authority. To the knowledge of ZNOART, this was done above board and all relevant documents narrating the various incidents of corruption or abuse of office were handed over to allow cases to be processed for prosecution.
While ZNOART does not want to interfere with due justice processes, concern relates to the emerging disturbing revelations (by most witnesses whose identities are herein withheld for ethical reasons) that there is a tenacious effort to victimize them with a view of gaging their mouths so that the pending cases could die a natural death once the villains are vindicated by default. Ironically, the same organization that purports to be fighting corruption is at the fore of these alleged victimization, implying that, effectively, all these cases will suffer a lack of competent witnesses. What started as a good cause that was lauded by all and sundry has turned into the very thing ghost the nation is fighting against – a corruption-ridden entity that is not only repugnant but also loathsome.
We have reached a stage where, as residents, we demand transparency on the handling of these cases and also the trial of everyone who has a case to answer as a matter of urgency because the harm that has been caused to the residents of Harare is now a matter of great public concern.
While SACU is showing no sense of urgency to facilitate the trials of all the accused, it should prove beyond doubt that it has not fallen a victim of the deeply corrupt tendencies of some Councilors and the top managers that are currently on bail. We are reliably informed that Town Clerk Hosea Chisango may have illegally allocated some officials at SACU some land in Bluffhill, Kuwadzana, and some places that are still being investigated at this point in time. We have also noted that witnesses are now being arrested on made-up allegations. This is the major reason why we are concerned. SACU should prove that their reluctance to put these people on trial and the continued harassment of witnesses has nothing to do with these allegations. If it is proved that some officials at SACU were, indeed, given residential stands irregularly, if it pleases His Excellency, then all the cases under their care should be transferred immediately to another competent Agency that is established for that purpose.
As residents of Harare, we no longer have confidence in the current City administration on the basis of what has transpired so far and it is clear that the city fathers and the City top managers have converted the City of Harare into a private cartel corporation that funds their private interests at the expense of the residents.
From a variety of sources, it is clear that Chisango and his team, including some Councilors, have been accused of the following charges:
- Abuse of public office
- Gross mismanagement of City affairs
- Dereliction of duty
There is an implied case of misallocation and misuse of resources at the City because such is unavoidable when management and responsibility have collapsed to the extent currently seen at City of Harare. These are serious allegations and the only way that the public can regain trust in the current City administration is when the law has been allowed to take its course transparently; otherwise, Government should intervene without delay to clear the mess that now engulfs the City.
The legal process should generally give confidence to the residents that corruption cases will be pursued vigorously to the end. As residents, we are slowly beginning to believe that the cases against city Councilors and top managers may never reach trial stage because of questionable actions we have seen being taken in pursuit of justice.
We are reliably informed that SACU has been carrying out selective arrests, especially of persons who are potential witnesses on the Chisango case and, if this is true, it amounts to the victimization of witnesses.
Chisango was allowed back in office improperly and he interfered with witnesses and was alleged to have connived with his supporters in the system to destroy all implicating evidence and ensuring that all the people handling his corruption matters are dealt with.
There were counter reports on witnesses by arrested persons and even in the absence of credible evidence, SACU showed active interest in the cases and was keen to arrest on basis of reports submitted by bitter arrested officials. Successful convictions will just be, but a dream.
From our observations, SACU moved very slowly and cautiously in relation to allegations against Chisango. When Chisango was formally reported to the authorities, he reacted by suspending the Director of Works, Chawatama, who was a key witness to his case.
Chisango was eventually arrested because of pressure from the Public Safety Investigation Team and he went to court but was released on bail; he became the first arrest by SACU on land scandals who was not remanded in custody.
Councilor Mkunguma (who was Acting Mayor) wrote a letter inviting Chisango to resume his duties even though there was an agreed position that all Council employees involved in corrupt land deals who are on bail should remain on leave pending finalization of their cases to avoid interference with witnesses. When he returned to the office, he ordered the Public Safety Department that had investigated him to report to him directly, despite objection from the Acting Chamber Secretary at the time.
Chisango took that decision without the restructuring exercise being carried out as is the norm in Council. There was equally no Council Resolution on the matter and; therefore, this warranted it an illegal instruction but he went ahead all the same.
Unless these damning allegations are transparently dealt with to a definite end, there will be continued moaning and groaning among the residents of the now derelict City of Harare. The people need to be placated and the only way to appease them is through recourse to LAW. The LAW should take its course promptly to be a real warning to other cartels in the councils of Gweru, Masvingo, Bulawayo, among others.
For and on behalf of Zimbabwe National Organizations of Associations of Residents Trusts (ZNOART)
Shepherd Shalvar Chikomba
ZNOART (National Chairman)