Freeman Razemba Senior Reporter—
Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Minister Saviour Kasukuwere, who last week fired the mayor and all 24 councillors at Chitungwiza Municipality, will soon descend on Norton and Chiredzi town councils following allegations of corrupt activities by some councilors and senior officials. The councillors are alleged to have been involved in illegal land deals and have been accumulating vast tracts of land at the expense of residents, among other corrupt activities.
It is believed that they were parcelling out residential stands which they would dispose of at astronomical prices to desperate home seekers.
In an interview, Minister Kasukuwere confirmed that probe teams will be set up to investigate the allegations in the two towns.
“We will soon descend on Norton Town Council and Chiredzi Town Council where there have been reported cases of corruption,” he said.
Although the minister could not divulge much or when the probe teams would be deployed, it is believed that Chiredzi town councillors allegedly allocated themselves serviced residential stands in the Makondo area under Tshovani Township Extension.
A recent audit revealed that the councillors would allegedly buy several stands from council for about $500 per high-density stand and then resell them for over $2 500 each.
It is also alleged that the same councillors also abused their positions selling among themselves medium-and low-density stands for $1 500 and $2 000 respectively.
They would in turn dispose of the stands for about $4 000 and $6 000 each.
Last week, Minister Kasukuwere suspended Chitungwiza Mayor Phillip Mutoti and his entire council for corruptly allocating themselves vast tracts of land worth over $7 million.
Chitungwiza Municipality has 14 MDC-T councillors, including Mayor Mutoti and 11 Zanu-PF councillors. The minister has since appointed a three-person caretaker council to clean up the rot in the dormitory town.
An internal audit shows councillors and officials allocated themselves commercial and institutional stands.
Human resources manager Mary Mukonyora got 8,41 hectares, Clr Simbiso Mhike (8,413 hectares), Clr Nicholas Mashayamombe (3,39ha) and Clr Charamba Mlambo (46 stands).
Other councillors also benefited from the looting spree.
The audit revealed councillors and staff allocated themselves stands/land and undercharged by as much as $200 and proceeded to sell the same stands for $5 000.
The councillors were given seven days to respond after they were summoned to the parent ministry together with management to answer to the charges.
Minister Kasukuwere said the municipality was plagued by poor governance, negligible service delivery and corruption.
The municipality serves a population of nearly half a million people.
Auditor-General Ms Mildred Chiri’s report on local authorities for 2015, exposed corruption in most councils.
The report showed that Harare could have been fleeced of millions of dollars following revelations that two anonymous computers were being used to bill customers each month amid the likelihood that more funds were looted through the fraudulent issuance of receipts.
According to the report which exposed corruption in most councils, the city’s IT department failed to detect the computers that were being used to generate the bills.
In Norton the audit showed that the council had total employment costs of $3 108 321 out of expenditure of $5 022 069 indicating that employment costs constituted 62 percent, in violation of the ministerial directive prescribing a ratio of 70:30 in favour of service delivery.
The AG said the audit findings warranted the attention of management and those charged with governance.
Most MDC-T-run urban councils have been rocked by corruption allegations to the detriment of service delivery.
Convicted fraudster and Bulawayo Ward 23 Councillor Thobani Ncube was fired from his council position last month and Minister Kasukuwere said a by-election would be be held soon to fill the vcancy.
Ncube was convicted of defrauding a resident of $12 000 in a housing scam and was sentenced to 36 months in prison. He was to perform 630 hours of community service after a magistrate conditionally suspended the sentence.
Last September, Minister Kasukuwere suspended five out of Bulawayo’s 29 councillors including the city’s former deputy mayor Mr Gift Banda for alleged corruption
Three councillors were later exonerated but Mr Banda and Ward 21’s Reuben Matengu were fired following an investigation by an independent tribunal.
In February, Minister Kasukuwere fired Gweru Mayor Hamutendi Kombayi and reinstated 10 other opposition MDC-T and three Zanu-PF councillors who had been suspended on allegations of gross misconduct, maladministration and abuse of public funds.