A DANGEROUS trend of celebrating and rewarding ineptitude is becoming entrenched in the “Zanu PF way” of doing things if recent events at Town House can
be cited as an example.
The predilection lends credence to the old nostrum of some people having greatness thrust upon them while others desperately seek it.
Misuse public funds in Zanu PF’s name and you are most likely to profit from a fresh lease of life or promotion to higher office instead of prosecution.
The Sekesai Makwavarara-led commission running the affairs of Harare has become one such instance rewarded for not being adept in management but going about business in the “Zanu PF way”.
Her undemocratic tenure was extended for another six months for the fourth time.
And celebrating bungling appears to be in vogue in Zimbabwe unlike in a functioning democracy where prospects of admonition prevail for similar misdeeds.
Giving Makwavarara an effective two years at the helm at Town House has broken all records that Local Government minister, Ignatious Chombo, has ever set in making sure that Harare ratepayers remain disenfranchised.
Chombo’s claims that he is satisfied by the performance of the commission have baffled many. Political analyst and University of Zimbabwe (UZ) lecturer, Eldred Masunungure, contested Chombo’s claims.
Masunungure said he found no plausible reason other than political expediency for Makwavarara’s reappointment adding: “She is the personification of incompetence.”
“You have to scrape the bottom of a barrel to find evidence of efficiency on the basis of which government would re-appoint Makwavarara and her team. It is a grave mistake and shows government’s arrogance,” Masunungure said.
He said the decision by government shows its fear of the people’s power to elect representatives of their choice.
Whatever makes Makwavarara indispensable, no one knows for sure. But one former Zanu PF legislator, Philip Chiyangwa, provided a good indicator when he urged people who wanted to enrich themselves to join the ruling party Zanu PF.
If there is anyone who is benefiting from Zanu PF’s condescending attitude towards ratepayers, Makwavarara tops the list.
Makwavarara, a political turncoat who was elected to the Town House on an MDC ticket, elevated her status after a fall-out with MDC leadership in 2004.
She heeded Chiyangwa’s advice belatedly and joined Zanu PF as she couldn’t resist the lure of benefits that are associated with the ruling party.
Although residents have criticised government for not holding elections in Harare since the dismissal of former executive mayor, Elias Mudzuri in April 2004, the state appears unruffled. It has crinkled its nose at such suggestions.
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) appears to have washed its hands of responsibility in the fiasco at the Town House as it has failed to organise elections for the city by giving reasons that raise more questions about the electoral body’s independence.
ZEC spokesperson Utloile Silaigwana said his commission is yet to set a date for elections in Harare as it is still consulting with authorities where elections are due.
“Councils are the ones that fund elections and so we are still consulting authorities. We don’t know when we are going to finish the consultations,” Silaigwana said.
Makwavarara’s recent re-appointment might result in the government delaying council elections for Harare until 2008.
But Combined Harare Residents Association (CHRA), a civic rights group, says it continues to call for residents to boycott paying rates until the right to elect leaders of their choice is restored.
“We continue to call for people to boycott paying rates until such a time when our rights are restored to us,” CHRA chairman Mike Davies said.
The Zanu PF government delayed holding elections in Harare when it fired Solomon Tawengwa in 1999, only to allow council elections to run concurrently with presidential elections in 2002.
“A time shall come when we will reclaim our rights and CHRA will call for a thorough audit of how money has been stolen,” Davies said “Then we can press for criminal charges to be levelled against Makwavarara and commissioners who are complicit in an illegality.”
Makwavarara has been in the news for all the wrong reasons ever since she was appointed chairperson of the Commission.
When in 2004 her official car, a Mazda 626, was involved in an accident with her relatives on board resulting in the car being a complete write-off, council proceeded to buy her an all-terrain Toyota twin-cab.
As service delivery continues to deteriorate in the capital and the city faces a myriad of problems that include erratic water supplies, burst water and sewer pipes, poor road maintenance, uncollected refuse and dysfunctional street and traffic lights, Makwavarara exhibited headline-grabbing profligacy.
She brought pressure to bear on the local authority to buy furniture and curtains for the mayoral mansion for a whopping cost of $35 billion – enough to purchase an upmarket residential property.
Her flair for extravagance outraged ratepayers who could ill-afford such a luxury when service delivery is at rock-bottom.
Apparently, she cannot distinguish between being chairperson of a commission and being mayor. To show her extravagant lifestyle, Makwavarara acquired a satellite dish without going to tender at a cost of $104 million and proceeded to spend over $175 million of ratepayers’ money on groceries at the commission’s expense without approval.
Unsure of her future at the helm of the commission and bidding to strip council assets bare, Makwavarara set her sights on buying an upmarket house at a give-away price of $780 million with the tacit approval from Chombo who approved the sale that could have prejudiced council of billions of dollars. The house, which is in the Highlands/Chisipite area, was estimated to cost $20 billion by independent evaluators.
Makwavarara will have to fork out $5,5 billion for an undisclosed period after council revised the figure following a public outcry.
The Anti-Corruption Commission which three months ago expressed an interest in the goings-on at Town House has not said a thing since, raising questions about its effectiveness.