Council’s Political, Labour Dilemma

On the surface, Harare is a bustling capital city just like any other, except that it has an ambition to become a world class city by 2025.

But in reality, these ambitions have been thrown in disarray, not only due to corruption, but by political fights in the opposition MDC-Alliance.

Yet, a world class city status for the capital by 2025 will obviously augur well with Vision 2030 of achieving a middle income economy that is being pursued by Government.

As long as those running the city put political fights and corruption ahead of service delivery, the envisaged improving of the capital will become difficult to achieve.

Political fights

Since the MDC won control of some towns and cities at the turn of the millennium, there has been no peace as factions within the party try to outdo each other in having a bigger control.

It has since turned out that the aim is to fatten the pockets of the councillors and the city officials.

The fights escalated in recent months following a devastating political blow inflicted on the MDC-A led by Nelson Chamisa by his rival Dr Thokozani Khupe’s MDC-T.

After Dr Khupe took over control of the MDC-T within the MDC Alliance, she started recalling some councillors who were nominated by the party to stand in elections on the MDC Alliance ticket.

A number of councillors, including the mayor Herbert Gomba, were recalled from Harare City Council, in a show of political might by Dr Khupe.

These political fights have had a devastating effect on the running of the council, as both MDC Alliance and MDC-T claim a stake in controlling the city’s affairs.

It has become a game of politically checkmating each other between the two political factions, while residents look on without water, garbage collection and other services being provided.

In short, MDC politics, as being practiced by Chamisa and Dr Khupe, has killed Harare’s ambitions of becoming a world class city by 2025.

This type of antagonist politics has helped ensure no progress is made in advancing the city and provide services to residents who pay their bills each month. The way officials are conducting their business at Town House now smacks of some power struggles emanating from the broad political fights within the MDC.

The internal organisational politics have been polluted and this makes it almost impossible for the city to make any progress because there is no consensus on various issues.

Either you belong to Chamisa or to Dr Khupe, and apart from that it means nothing meaningful can be discussed for the betterment of the city.

These political fights have made the situation at Town House untenable.

It is clear that the Chamisa-led MDC faction views Harare City Council as its last bastion of some political influence, albeit at the lower structure of governance.

And the faction has been doing everything in its power to ensure that it shuts out its perceived enemies from attempts to revive the city, as a way of preventing anyone from taking credit for anything that goes right.

The result has been a neglect on service delivery, while the councillors and officials concentrate on outwitting each other politically.

Costly confusion

A number of city workers have been accused of corruption and arraigned before the courts, and these were in turn put on suspensions and leave pending internal investigations by the city council.

What has now happened is that council has replaced a number of these employees with others in an acting capacity, therefore ending up making double payment on salaries and allowances.

The workers on suspension continue to receive their full salaries and allowances which include school fees, monthly cellphone allowances, wi-fi subscriptions and fuel while at home.

At the same time, those who replaced them are also getting the same benefits, a situation that has resulted in funds being directed towards the double payments.

This has obviously resulted in finances being diverted from service delivery to cater for the increased wage bill.

Perhaps noting this anomaly, the city’s Human Resources and General Purpose Committee held a meeting on October 13 and suggested that workers with bail conditions that did not prevent them from returning to work should do so.

This was also perhaps out of the realisation that the law allows a disciplinary hearing within 14 days if the suspension is without salary and benefits and 30 days if there is a full salary and benefits.

Among top positions gobbling the council funds through double payments are those of the town clerk, the housing director, monitoring and evaluation manager, city planner, city land development manager, chief land surveyor, principal housing officer and two district officers.

What this means is that the city council has to make a decision on how to proceed, of course without interfering with the court processes so that there is no obstruction of the course of justice in the corruption cases.

But the more the city’s internal investigations drag, the more the city will continue with the double payments that are costly.

If the situation continues, obviously there is bound to be a reduced quality in decision making, while the operation environment remains tense because of power struggles within council.

Corruption

The fight against corruption at Harare City Council emanates mainly from suspected cases of illegal allocations of land by city officials and councillors.

For future purposes, city authorities should come up with a proper land administration system for the city, which officials should not deviate from.

The haphazard manner in which land allocation is done in Harare creates a breeding ground for corrupt individuals to thrive.

Council should have a data bank of all its land available for inspection by anyone who intends to purchase a stand, with the process done procedurally and following the laid down rules.

Law enforcement agents working on Harare City Council have been concentrating on land, it will be more encompassing if they extend their investigations to corporate governance.

The city should also be a higher authority to oversee issues regarding the council so that there are checks and balances.

In fact, the Ministry of Local Government and Public Works should take a keen interest in how land is managed in Harare to ensure that the officials are made accountable for the decisions they make.

Otherwise, land corruption will become like a vicious circle where people are arrested and removed from Town House, but their successors continue on the same path.

Someone with more authority should be involved in asking questions to city officials about the issues like the land bank, and how the available land will be used.

Lack of proper procedures and administration is playing a part in officials taking advantage to engage in corruption by allocating themselves powers to oversee land issues.

Otherwise, the slums and haphazard settlements being witnessed in Harare are a result of the council failing to claim its land, or the officials claiming the land, but using it for their own corrupt purposes.

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