By Mark Mhukayesango
Gweru, February 15, 2016 – City residents are up in arms with the Saviour Kasukuwere appointed commission’s decision to hire an independent tribunal to preside over the hearing of suspended Town Clerk Daniel Matawu.
Angry residents are adamant the outsourcing of the process will further bleed the already cash strapped council in terms of allowances.
Two city residents associations have since petitioned Local Government Minister in efforts to force the hearing to be done internally.
In their petition, the Gweru United Residents Association (GURA) and Gweru Residents and Rate Payers Association (GRRA) argued that part of council management was equally capable of handling Matawu’s corruption cases.
“The tribunals which have come in the past have milked our council of the much needed revenue needed for service delivery.
“Rate payers’ monies are spent in hotels and board rooms and this is not what we want,” reads the petition in part.
Residents claim that a three member tribunal which presided over the suspension of Mayor Hamutendi Kombayi and 18 of his councillors in August last year blew over $10 000 in city funds.
“We have proof that the past tribunal spent over $10 000 of rate payers money in just two weeks and we do not wish history to repeat itself. So this hearing should be conducted internally,” reads the tribunal.
The current tribunal is ecpected to begin the hearing this week on misuse of council funds and corruption allegations levelled against Matawu.
The under fire city manager was suspended in January following an order by Kasukuwere for the commission to fire all corrupt officials with corruption allegations hanging over their heads.
In an audit report on the state of council released in November last year, Matawu was fingered in most of the corrupt activities in council including signing funds for hosting MDC president Morgan Tsvangirai and the disappearance of over 450 cattle at a council farm, among other allegations.
Matawu was also accused of recklessness and further neglecting his duties as city’s chief administrator.
“The Town Clerk should safeguard public funds and ensure that they are spent only on legally authorised purposes in terms of the Constitution of Land,” reads the audit report.
“The Town Clerk failed to take effective and appropriate steps to prevent irregular, fruitless and wasteful expenditure as required by law.”
Since his suspension, Matawu has not yet appeared before either the Commission or a tribunal.
Residents have been quick to raise the red flag, insisting this was in violation of the Urban Councils Act which stipulates that a suspended official is supposed to receive their charge sheet within seven working days after which he should appear before a disciplinary committee within 14 days.
Speaking to RadioVOP, leader of the three member commission, Tsunga Mhangami defended the hiring of an independent to decide Matawu’s fate.
“We saw a petition by the residents who are concerned by council’s lean budget, but for objectivity’s sake, the team has to come from another city,” said Mhangami.
“We will make sure that they quickly get down to business so that we don’t strain council’s resources. We were tasked by the minister to investigate Matawu and we will hand over the findings to the tribunal,” Mhangami added.
If the tribunal proceeds with the hearing, council will be saddled with another bill adding to the commissioners’ bill who have allegedly blown over $100 000 in five months.
The Gweru City Council has over the past two years been marred by chaos as officials have been accused of poor management and corruption.
The Gweru rot has been institutionalised for decades and cleaning up the mess will not just take the suspensions, or subsequent firing of the corrupt lot, but a shift from the politics of the stomach to genuine service delivery, observed Michael Machiya, a social commentator.
Machiya says local governance in Zimbabwe has been left to rot because ministers never cared about the running of councils until now where they are trying to undo the wrongs.
He said the current zeal displayed by Kasukuwere, a Zanu PF minister, could be politically motivated as opposed to genuine attempts to rid local authorities of corruption.
Most local authorities in the country’s major urban areas are dominated by the opposition MDC-T.