Home » Governance » Kasukuwere, Councils Head for Collision

THE appointment of Saviour Kasukuwere to the Local Government, Public Works and Urban Development ministry, during a recent mini-Cabinet reshuffle by President Robert Mugabe, has triggered tremors in local authorities run by Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T).

Mayors and councillors across the country’s cities are already being prepped on their constitutional rights by the MDC-T, which is all part of a strategy to ensure that Kasukuwere does not run roughshod over its officials.

Days into his new post, Kasukuwere has not hidden his intentions to have a go at all those who will stand in his way.

“It’s all about service delivery, providing housing, road maintenance and cleaning up our urban centres. That is what my priority is for now”, Kasukuwere told the Financial Gazette.

Vendors in Harare were the first to be on the receiving end of Kasukuwere’s drive to clean up the capital; with scores being either assaulted by municipal police or having had their wares destroyed or confiscated after the lapse of a June 26 deadline for the vendors to move or be moved to designated places.

Ironically, it was Kasukuwere’s predecessor Ignatius Chombo, a senior ZANU-PF official who had been at the helm of the same ministry for the last 15 years who, knowingly or unknowingly, stimulated the chaos and malaise local councils through his periodic interferences.

For instance, in the run-up to the 2013 general elections, Chombo, issued a populist directive for all local authorities to cancel debts owed by ratepayers at the advent of dollarisation in February 2009.

The move drove councils to their knees and they are yet to recover from the bankruptcy the directive plunged them into. Major urban local authorities are now being owed an estimated US$500 million by both government, companies and residents.

The bankruptcy of local councils is certain to prove a major headache for Kasukuwere who will be faced with empty council coffers in his bid to revive service delivery.

Obert Gutu, the MDC-T national spokesperson indicated to the Financial Gazette that the appointment of Kasukuwere into the Local Government ministry, which among other things enables him to have oversight of urban centres — key power bases of the MDC-T– had become a talking point within the country’s largest opposition party.

“We look at Kasukuwere’s appointment as a positioning for 2018. He has been deployed by President Mugabe to do a hatchet job for ZANU-PF and we see it as a 2018 strategy to gerrymander with the urban vote,” said Gutu and added.

“While we have always had conversations going on with our mayors and councillors, we now have had to put them on high alert. We are alerting them on their Constitutional mandate and making sure they are aware of what is expected from them from the ratepayer, who is their boss.”

Some of the constitutional rights the MDC-T is alerting its constituency is, for instance, that councillors are directly elected by registered voters in their respective wards and none of these are either appointees of the President or of the Minister of Local Government.

Thus, under section 274 of the Constitution, which provides for the establishment of local authorities, they, among other things, have the mandate to represent and manage the affairs of people in urban areas throughout Zimbabwe.

Section 278 of the Constitution sets out the procedure that has to be followed before a mayor or councillor is removed from office.

An independent tribunal must be established to exercise the function of removing from office mayors, chairpersons and councillors — rendering the minister of local government unable to fire and hire officials at their pleasure.

However, such removal must only be on grounds that they are unable to perform the functions of their office due to mental or physical incapacity, gross incompetence, gross misconduct, conviction of an offence involving dishonesty, corruption, abuse of office and willful violation of the law.

Kasukuwere, however, said the MDC-T run local authorities had nothing to fear from him and he was looking forward to working with them closely to improve the lives of the people.

“I don’t expect any resistance from the MDC-T run councils and there is nothing for them to fear. What political party would surely stand against an agenda to improve service delivery in our country?” he asked.

Alex Magaisa, a legal analyst, said the dual roles which Kasukuwere wielded in the State as the local government minister and in ZANU-PF as party commissar would enable him to move seamlessly from one zone to the other and in that process be able to pursue party business whilst wearing the hat of government official, which would give it all a veil of legitimacy.

“This is about ZANU-PF consolidating its power and control across the country, merging the State structures and party structures for maximum effectiveness. This means when the opposition talks of electoral reforms, they must realise that, in fact, President Mugabe and ZANU-PF are consolidating the structures that give them an advantage and no reforms of the Electoral Act will affect these structures,” said Magaisa.

Kasukuwere’s rise into the local government portfolio comes at a time when his previous role at the youth development, indigenisation and empowerment ministry has come under intense scrutiny.

Empowerment deals carved out under his watch in 2012 have proved to be just hot air, with no substantial empowerment programmes to date having been rolled out and this has attracted the attention of Parliament.

His immediate past ministry of environmental and water development has also been marred by controversy with construction work being done on wetlands, especially in Harare, under his watch, as well as the poisoning last year of nearly 100 elephants at Hwange National park by poachers.

Gutu said the MDC-T was well aware of Kasukuwere’s shortcomings and vulnerabilities in other ministries in which he had served.

“He wants to be branded as a combative person, but we are not scared of him. He is extremely loud, but short on delivery. He was very loud at indigenisation and the same at the environment ministry, but when you take due diligence to see what he achieved, you realise there is nothing,” said Gutu, adding.

“We will not allow him to bulldoze us and we will give him a good run for his money. We can’t divulge our entire strategy, but this is not to say that our mayors and councillors will behave lawlessly, but we will not be bullied around.”

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