By Dumisani Nyoni
Bulawayo, April 13, 2016 – AT its peak, Bulawayo City Council (BCC) was said to be the best performing authority.
Unlike other urban authorities, city managers earned reasonable salaries and it was rare to find the authority mired in corruption scandals seen of Harare and Mutare over the past few years.
Even during the height of its perennial water woes, Bulawayo could still bag the best water supply award, among a host of similar accolades.
However, recent cases of corruption levelled against city fathers is feared could bring the much dreaded instability to country’s second largest city.
Recently, residents heckled and booed mayor Martin Moyo during a stakeholders meeting as they accused the MDC-T led council of running down the city.
They took turns to lampoon Moyo before Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko, Cabinet Ministers, MPs and business executives who attended the high profile meeting.
Bulawayo Provincial Minister of State Nomthandazo Eunice Moyo accused Moyo and his councilors of lack of transparency.
“There’s nothing wrong with development of Egodini but I know that something is wrong with the signing of that tender. The mayor knows what I’m talking about,” she said.
She queried why the tender was signed last year when it was issued in 2010.
BCC has awarded the South African-based civil engineering firm, Terracorta, a tender to redevelop Basch Street Terminus popularly known as Egodini to a state of the art regional transport hub at a cost of $60 million.
Last year the Affirmative Action Group (AAG) accused the city of corruption and mismanagement.
The group filed an urgent chamber application at the Bulawayo High Court seeking the suspension of all councillors, and the appointment of a commission of inquiry to investigate alleged tender irregularities at the local authority.
There are fears if the application were to be granted, Bulawayo could turn into a Harare scenario which in the past few years has been under the stewardship of successive Commissions.
The AAG was irked by reports that contracts with a combined value of about $8,7 million were re-tendered or extended after companies either disappeared or failed to complete projects.
Defaulting companies allegedly worked in cahoots with senior council officials who played tender adjudication and supervisory roles, creating loopholes for manipulation in the bidding process.
The group also once took the city mayor to task over council’s decision to sell land to his deputy, Gift Banda, under unclear circumstances.
Council in May last year granted Banda permission to buy 3,5 hectares of land valued at $130 000 for construction of residential flats at Ascot Race Course.
However, Banda has on numerous occasions denied charges that he was corruptly allocated the stand.
Following these reports, Moyo immediately called for a press conference to explain the city council position on the issues.
His explanation failed to appease the pressure groups in the city with Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association (BPRA) on Monday demanding a probe of the city’s councillors.
This follows reports that they were abusing their positions to accumulate wealth and grab properties.
In a statement BPRA cordinator Roderick Fayayo said councillors must be investigated.
“BPRA is calling for an investigation of Bulawayo councillors amid concerns that they are abusing their positions to accumulate wealth and grab properties,” he said.
This, according to Fayayo, comes after revelations that two councillors, James Sithole of Ward 7 and Charles Moyo of Ward 9, had applied and been awarded town house stands at Parklands.
The stands, numbers 15943 and 1594, measuring 3, 7 hectares and 2, 3 hectares are valued at $184 000 and $112 000 respectively.
“BPRA is currently consulting with its lawyers and its residents’ structures to determine a way forward with regards to the issue,” he said.
He said the association will engage the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Local Government and the Ministry of Local Government to seek a forensic audit of councillors.
Fayayo said BPRA was concerned that the latest development might be a sign of rent seeking and abuse of office by councillors who were using their time in office to enrich themselves instead of representing residents and advancing the affairs of the city.
BPRA has in the past received complaints from residents that councillors were taking over public toilets, and had assumed ownership of car parks and housing stands, he said.
“This latest development is an indication that all these concerns have been genuine, and that there is a need to ensure that councillors are not corruptly accumulating properties,” he said.
Sithole said there was nothing amiss with them buying stands from the council because it was their privilege.
“Councillors are entitled to buy residential stands at 40 percent cost once in their lifetime as councillors. They are also entitled either to buy an industrial or commercial stand at full cost. There is nothing amiss about that,” he said.
A social commentator Mlawuli Dube said corruption was “eating” BCC bit by bit and needed to be weeded out with immediate effect.
“The city is slightly turning into a junta city. The crop of councillors that are there are full of corruption. Surely, something needs to be done before the city turned into a laughing stalk,” he said.