Harare, February 5, 2014 – A human rights lawyer has turned the heat on Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Minister Ignatius Chombo by issuing out a one-day ultimatum to rescind his controversial re-appointment of Tendai Mahachi as the Town Clerk for Harare City Council (HCC).
Chombo recently courted the ire of Harare Mayor Bernard Manyenyeni and some residents when he rescinded the suspension of Mahachi who had been forced out of HCC for allegedly failing to properly discharge his duties after he refused, failed and neglected to give effect to a Council resolution to provide the salary and benefits schedule of all HCC senior employees including his own schedule.
The suspension, which was effected by Manyenyeni last Wednesday in conformity with the Mayor’s exercise of his prerogative in terms of Section 139 (3) (a) of the Urban Councils Act would have paved the way to probe Mahachi’s conduct and also launch investigations into the affairs and finances of the HCC.
But Chombo over the weekend unilaterally overturned Mahachi’s suspension on the basis that he was empowered under Section 134 of the Urban Councils Act (Chapter 29:15) to reverse Manyenyeni’s decision.
In a letter delivered to Chombo’s offices Tuesday, Tawanda Zhuwarara, a human rights lawyer and resident of Harare, through his lawyer, Bellinda Chinowawa of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), demanded that Chombo should rescind his decision on Mahachi by Wednesday because it was premature and a nullity at law.
Zhuwarara warned Chombo that failure to implement his demand by Wednesday will leave him with no choice but to approach the courts for appropriate relief.
The Harare resident said he was so distressed after reading articles published in local newspapers on Monday stating that Chombo had invoked some provisions of Section 314 of the Urban Councils Act to reverse the decision by Mayor Manyenyeni to suspend Dr Mahachi.
Zhuwarara said Chombo’s actions are objectionable and that his purported powers in terms of Section 314 of the Urban Councils Act can only be exercised in regards to Council and not Mayoral decisions.
The Harare resident said Chombo’s directive was premature and a nullity at law since the HCC is yet to make its determination in terms of Section 139 (4) of the Urban Councils Act and only after the process in terms of Section 139 (4) of the Urban Councils Act has been completed does the suspension of Mahachi become a resolution of the Council.
As a rate paying resident of Harare, Zhuwarara asked Chombo to rescind his directive for the reappointment of Mahachi forthwith, and allow the procedures in terms of Section 139 (4) of the Urban Councils Act to be followed to their logical conclusion.
The human rights lawyer charged that it is in the public interest to ensure transparency in the use of public funds and as a ratepayer he has a real and substantial interest in how public funds are being used.
It’s now left to be found out whether Chombo will this time around comply with the resident’s demand as he has on previous occasions ignored letters of demand from aggrieved residents.