Gweru gets new mayor, Kombayi goes to court

Hamutendi Kombayi

Hamutendi Kombayi

Patrick Chitumba/Mashudu Netsianda, Senior Reporters
MDC-T Councillor Charles Chikozho was sworn in as the new Gweru mayor yesterday — the same day that his predecessor Mr Hamutendi Kombayi went to court challenging Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Cde Saviour Kasukuwere’s decision to fire him.

Clr Chikozho garnered 10 votes to defeat Zanu-PF’s candidate Clr Simon Charakupa who managed six votes.

Clr Charles Simbi of Zanu-PF also lost by the same margin to Clr Willard Ndaguta of MDC-T who landed the deputy mayor’s post.

The MDC-T has 10 councillors while Zanu-PF has six councillors at Town House.

Cde Kasukuwere recently ordered Gweru councillors to choose among themselves, the mayor and deputy mayor.

This followed the axing of Mr Hamutendi Kombayi and Mr Kenneth Sithole for alleged abuse of office, gross misconduct, incompetence and mismanagement of council funds and affairs in line with recommendations made by a tribunal chaired by Masvingo lawyer Isaiah Shumba.

The position of deputy mayor fell vacant following the death of Clr Artwell Matyorauta last year.

Although the other councillors were found guilty by the tribunal, Cde Kasukuwere said Government had decided to re-engage them but they had to start afresh, first by undergoing training.

He said by-elections for wards represented by Mr Kombayi and Mr Sithole would be held in due course.

Yesterday’s vote was done by way of a secret ballot and was supervised by an official from the District Administrator’s office and the outgoing commission chairperson Tsunga Mhangami.

There was drama minutes after the swearing in ceremony when Clr Kombayi suddenly walked in with a black bag and tried to surrender the mayoral regalia into Clr Chikozho’s hands only to be intercepted by the Chamber Secretary Mr Vakai Chikwekwe who took the items away from him saying, “We will give him later”.

Mr Kombayi then walked out of the chamber much to the amusement of councillors and members of the public in attendance.

In his acceptance speech, Clr Chikozho — who was sworn in by Town Clerk Ms Elizabeth Gwatipedza — promised to work well with councillors from both Zanu-PF and the MDC-T for the development of Gweru.

Mr Kombayi, Mr Sithole and the other 10 councillors who were re-engaged yesterday lodged an application at the High Court seeking an order setting aside their convictions by the tribunal headed by Mr Muzenda. The councillors through their lawyers, Gundu and Dube Legal Practitioners, filed an application for review at the Bulawayo High Court citing Minister Kasukuwere, the tribunal and the Gweru City Council as respondents.

In his founding affidavit, Mr Kombayi said the determination by the independent tribunal was bad at law, arguing that there was no law supporting their convictions.

“The tribunal erred in convicting all the applicants when there was no law that supported the convictions. I am of the strong opinion that the conviction is bad at law because the tribunal dismissed me without taking into account and without due consideration to the value and gravity of the matter,” he said.

Mr Kombayi said the tribunal failed to distinguish between a tour by a council guest and an MDC-T function.

“The tribunal erred on both facts and law in concluding that Morgan Tsvangirai’s visit to Gweru City Council and tour was an MDC-T party activity,” he said.

— @pchitumba1 @mashnets

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