CONCERNS raised recently by civic groups in Bulawayo over Local Government minister July Moyo’s decision to appoint commissions to run local authorities ahead of the swearing-in of councillors reflect the national picture in which stakeholders from across the country have raised the red flag over the same sensitive matter.
Those who have been following Zimbabwe’s politics from the time that the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) under Morgan Tsvangirai first made an entry into politics will recall that many MDC-T-led councils across the country were either forced out or suspended and replaced by Zanu PF appointed commissions.
What is happening now, therefore, is a clear demonstration that the party may not have changed its ways despite talk to the contrary and this may be a pointer that we could see the trend re-emerging even under President-elect Emmerson Mnangagwa’s leadership. In fact, what has been more telling is the fact that some commissions have also been staffed by Zanu PF losing candidates in the July 30 elections.
For all intents and purposes, this could be an opportunity for “losers” to have at least a bite of the cherry given that previous commissions’ members have been handsomely rewarded.
While government has argued that appointing such commissioners to run local authorities countrywide is meant to avert a leadership vacuum, it would have been ideal to bring in people who are neutral politically and are not embedded in any of the contesting political parties.
Another worrisome aspect is that while the new Constitution in Section 277(3) does provide for the appointment of commissions to run municipalities as permissible prior to the swearing in of new councillors as these should assume office on the ninth day after the announcement of the results of the general election in which the councillors were elected, this provision is prone to abuse.
Many citizens will recall that in the past, such questionable commissions have been used to make equally questionable decisions such as recruiting new council workers, who would normally be Zanu PF activists as well as sell land to senior council workers for a song, prejudicing the local authority of the much-needed revenue to revamp service delivery.
While government may have hinted that these commissions would not recruit new staff and deal with tenders, what guarantee is there that they will do the job professionally? Understandably, many residents’ associations and opposition parties have cried foul over this development because it stinks to high heaven.
But when looked at from a closer perspective, the question that arises is: What value will these commissioners bring when looking at past records of similar commissions that have been tasked to run certain municipalities, with high figure salaries and perks and yet without offering services of equal value to residents and while council employees had gone for months on end without salaries? Such appointments of commissions open room for conflict and that is not good for service delivery as they will only “serve” as a financial burden.
Coming at a time when most local authorities are already financially struggling, the burden will only increase as these commissioners will have to be paid from the little money that should be spread across many other competing needs, with service delivery at the top of the list.
It would have been ideal for those that won council seats in wards that are not being contested to be quickly sworn in so that they get down to business without weighing down the local authorities with commissions.