Home » Governance » Suspension of Councilors in Gweru [press release]

The MDC (T) has noted the attempt by the Minister of Local Government to suspend three Councilors elected in 2013 to the Gweru City Council. In doing so the Minister cites allegations that the Councilors have abused Council Property.

My attention was drawn to these same allegations by members of staff in the Council some time ago and in response the MDC has ordered the Council, through the Mayor, to institute a full investigation by the internal Audit department and that a special Committee be established for this purpose by the Council. Once this process has been completed and the results made known, the Council has been further instructed to consider the recommendation of the Committee and to decide what action is appropriate.

In the meantime it should be noted that under the devolution clauses of the New Constitution, the Minister no longer has the power to arbitrarily order either the suspension or the dismissal of an elected Councilor. This is in terms of Sections 264, 276 and 278 of the Constitution which is now the supreme law of the State. Until the Minister has new legislation which authorizes him to establish an independent tribunal to conduct disciplinary procedures against elected officials, he does not have the power to do so under existing legislation which has been superseded by the new Constitution.

Once the tribunal is established then it is the tribunal and not the Minister who will have the authority and the responsibility of such actions. The days of unbridled authority in the hands of the Minister are over and especially when they involve politically motivated minor allegations against elected officials in the Gweru City Council.

The Gweru Council is struggling to get on top of a financial and human crisis situation in Gweru, much of which is due to historical neglect of Council affairs and the actions of the Minister to unilaterally abolish outstanding debtor balances being held by all urban Councils throughout the country in 2013 at the cost of several hundred million dollars.

Because of this, the MDC considers it inappropriate to suspend any Councilors on the grounds of unsubstantiated allegations by staff which are yet to be investigated by the Councils own internal audit department and considered by a Committee of Council. We are therefore instructing the identified Councilors, all of whom are senior members of Council, to remain at their posts and continue with their responsibilities until such time as the outcome of the investigation that is under way is known and can be acted upon.

The MDC has a well established policy of zero tolerance for corruption in all forms and the public can be confident that the MDC will act against any Councilor who is confirmed to have acted corruptly in any way. It is well known that we have suspended individuals and in one case nearly the whole Council of a local authority that is under our control. Such Councilors will automatically lose their seats and be forced to face a bi-election.

The MDC has much larger issues to deal with in the Councils under their control, this includes massively inflated salaries of Zanu PF aligned senior Council staff, the complete withdrawal of all funding by Central Government to local authorities for essential social services, the diversion of funding from local authorities to centralized institutions such as Zinara and Zinwa. In addition the Government has failed to make the Constitutionally mandated grants to local Authorities under the new Constitution. All such actions are designed to undermine elected Councils.

It is time the Minister paid more attention to these real issues rather than a futile and unlawful attempt to disrupt the smooth administration of a major urban Council by trying to suspend certain Councilors.

Eddie Cross

Secretary for Local Government

Source : Movement for Democratic Change