Recalled Chitungwiza mayor, Lovemore Maiko of the Citizens Coalition for Change has sensationally claimed that the appointment of a team to investigate Chitungwiza councilors by the Ministry of Local Government is a ploy to assist Acting Mayor, Kevin Mutimbanyoka to land the substantive Mayor post through the back door.
Maiko told Review & Mail that soon after his recall on March 2, 2022, council was supposed to elect a mayor within 30 days of his recall in order to fill the vacuum he had left, but the Ministry of Local Government had deliberately caused the delays in the election so they could find reason to suspend CCC councilors.
Local Government Minister July Moyo on March 17 appointed a team to investigate the Chitungwiza councilors for failure to hold the elections within the period stipulated by the Urban Councils Act.
This however, was despite a directive from Harare Provincial Affairs and Devolution Secretary Tafadzwa Muguti for the councilors to halt the election until after the March 26 by-elections ostensibly to give other councilors a chance to also vote in the election.
The investigation was also instigated despite a letter by the Chitungwiza councilors to the Minister of Local Government advising him that their efforts to have the election were being frustrated.
“Now an investigation team has been put in place to investigate them and to investigate councilors; it’s now all politics playing out. The investigation is going to be used as a scapegoat to suspend some of the councilors that is to reduce the numbers so as to create an outcome that is favorable to the current Acting Mayor, Mutimbanyoka,”
Maiko said the councilors now feared that the Minister had set a precedent when he appointed Mutimbanyoka and was likely to do it again on the substantive Mayor thus benefitting Mutimbanyoka.
He however, said an attempt by the Minister to appoint a mayor in Chitungwiza would be against the law because there was nowhere in the Act where the Minister is given powers to appoint a substantive mayor or Deputy Mayor.
Maiko claimed Muguti wrote a letter to the councilors on March 14 telling them to stop the election which he said was in contradiction with the letter written by Zinechimwe Churu, Local Government Permanent Secretary who oversees and administers the Local Government Act and the Minister of Local Government July Moyo, urging council to take steps to hold elections to choose a substantive Mayor
“But the case of Chitungwiza has been a problem from the time I was recalled, councilors made a request in terms of section 84 (3) (request for a special meeting to elect substantial mayor) but the Acting Mayor Councilor Kevin Mutimbanyoka chose not to call for the meeting until the stipulated 14 days lapsed.
“Councilors had to sit for another meeting where they agreed and passed a resolution that the election be held on the 17th of March on a Thursday but the Acting Town Clerk, Acting Chamber Secretary and Acting Mayor all made sure the meeting did not take place. A letter was then written to the Acting Town Clerk reminding him of his roles as enshrined in the Urban Councils Act Section 136 which speaks on the functions of the Town Clerk, especially on giving effect to resolutions of the council. It is something that did not happen,” Maiko said
He said the issue of Chitungwiza was being treated differently from others such as those in Kariba where elections to replace a Mayor recalled well after him had already been done despite the pending March 26 by-elections.
‘They have since elected Ralph Mawonei as the new substantive Mayor. The same has happened in Rusape where a new Mayor was elected within seven days, the same goes for Mutare and quite a number of other local authorities,” he said.
Contacted for comment, Muguti referred all questions to Churu.
“If you have any questions, please address them to the Permanent Secretary,” he said.
Churu was not picking his phone.
Mutimbanyoka, however, was quoted in a local daily saying they would not hold the election until investigations instituted by the Minister.
“They were given seven days to conclude their investigations. After that honest elections will be held. But right now talking of elections when there is an investigation; I don’t think that is ideal. We just simply wait for that to happen,” he was quoted as saying.