Councillors from both rural and urban areas who were elected under the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) ticket say they are being victimised by Zanu (PF) aligned government officials especially the Minister of Local Government Ignatius Chombo, who has been meddling in council affairs.
So far Chombo, who has through different councils in the country amassed huge tracts of land and dozens of properties has expelled 11 councillors and suspended two using excessive powers vested in him through the Urban Councils Act.
The Act, which has been described by councillors as draconian, allows the minister to suspend or expel councillors even for flimsy reasons. The councillors are arguing that the controversial Act is being personally used by Chombo to stop investigations into his alleged theft of council land.
The President of the organisation is Warship Dumba, the fiery Mount Pleasant councillor who led investigations into improper massive acquisition of land by Chombo and controversial Harare dealer Phillip Chiyangwa.
Dumba was recently suspended by Chombo but is challenging the decision in court.
“I am confident that by this courageous resolve to form our association – cutting across urban and rural district councils on the one hand and on the other across partisan affiliations – local government in Zimbabwe will never be the same again.
“Many a times in the past we have been abused on the justification of our alleged misbehaviour, therefore, it is important that we do not give ammunition to those who want to trample on the rights of councillors. We are expected to demonstrate responsibility and exemplary behaviour as elected leaders and entrusted city fathers or local leadership,” said Dumba while addressing journalists in Harare on Thursday.
Outside of the press conference, Dumba had taken time to speak to Radio VOP on his vision for ECAZ and why they saw the need to form the organisation.
“Elected councillors are under siege from politicians who are corruptly acquiring land and properties in councils and this has to stop. But so far we are hitting brick walls because of lack of support from people who should be supporting us.
“The minister is openly and wantonly snatching away the responsibilities of elected councillors and nobody seems to raise a voice. As elected councillors, we want to defend ourselves from vultures who want to decimate all of us. It is a scandal that one minister is trying to reduce the numbers of MDC councillors across the country and this is what we are going to fight.
The formation of ECAZ comes weeks after another organisation, Democratic Councils Forum was formed. This one is made up of elected mayors and chairmen of local authorities. The organisation held a meeting last week where they resolved to approach parliament to repeal the Urban Councils Act and also agreed to push parliament to investigate Chombo for corruption.