LOCAL Government minister Saviour Kasukwere’s nickname is Mike Tyson.
BY RICHARD CHIDZA
He was named after the volatile American boxer mainly because of his big frame, but the youthful politician at times tries to imitate Tyson in the political ring.
Harare mayor Bernard Manyenyeni last week became the latest victim of Kasukwere’s dirty political games when he was suspended for defying the minister in the dispute over the appointment of former top banker James Mushore as the city’s new town clerk.
Kasukwere argues that government should have been involved in the selection of the new town clerk following Tendai Mahachi’s retirement last year, but legal experts say the minister misread the law.
Former Constitutional Affairs minister advocate Eric Matinenga said Kasukuwere’s actions were illegal and had the potential to take the capital back to the dark days when it was run by Zanu PF commissions.
“Nobody who bothers to read Section 278 of the Constitution will have any doubt that the minister is wrong. The spirit behind devolution was to make local authorities self-sufficient,” he said.
“There is no doubt that Kasukuwere is politicising the issue and going back to the dark days of Elias Mudzuri [former Harare mayor] and many others who were hounded out of office.
“The minister has no role to play in the appointment of the town clerk and by operation of law, the Local Government Board is obsolete.”
Matinenga played a leading role in the drafting of the new constitution that diluted the Local Government minister’s powers after Zimbabweans expressed displeasure in the way Kasukuwere’s predecessor Ignatius Chombo handled local authorities under the control of the opposition.
Matinenga said the Constitutional Court would make a declaratory judgement on what was lawful if approached on Manyenyeni’s issue.
“You cannot seek to operate outside the law or try to apply the law at a time you are deliberately breaking the law,” he said.
“The Constitution, as indicated by Section 2, takes precedence in the event there is a section of a law that is inconsistent with it.
“There is no room for using an illegal statute to cover a gap created by an illegality.”
MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s spokesperson Luke Tamborinyoka said the former prime minister would fight to stop Kasukuwere from interfering with council’s operations.
“Councillors took a legal decision to recruit personnel but are now being victimised by Mugabe’s surrogates,” he said.
“Tsvangirai is doing nothing less than defend them. He has not left it to the shadow minister of local government in the party, but has taken it upon himself to do this.”
MDC-T has since approached the High Court challenging Kasukuwere’s decision to suspend Manyenyeni.
There was a collective sigh of relief across Zimbabwe’s local authorities when President Robert Mugabe moved then long-serving Chombo to Home Affairs and appointed youthful Kasukuwere in his stead mid-last year.
But since his appointment, Kasukuwere has done nothing but harangue, harass and make life extremely difficult for MDC-T-dominated councils in Harare, Bulawayo, Gweru and Mutare.
Following Kasukuwere’s suspension of Gweru mayor Hamutendi Kombayi and other councillors early this year, Bulawayo High Court judge Francis Bere ruled that Section 114 of the Urban Councils Act is inconsistent with Section 278 of the new Constitution.
The MDC-T has maintained a stranglehold on urban authorities since 2000 and Zanu PF has sought to “throw spanners in the works” to find a way back.
Local government expert Ricky Mukonza said Zanu PF had always sought to use the Local Government minister to control local authorities that are under opposition control.
“Successive ministers have used the laws governing local government to justify their actions,” he said.
“With the 2013 Constitution, the laws were supposed to be aligned to the new supreme law, in essence giving some measure of autonomy to local authorities.
“However, this did not happen because it disadvantages the ruling party, Zanu PF; they would lose control of some local authorities.
He added: “Whilst in theory it might not be constitutional for the minister to continue to insist on the role of the local government board, in practice Zimbabwe operates on the principle of political supremacy.
“It is those decisions that are agreed to by the ruling party that carry the day”.
Another legal expert Alex Magaisa said Kasukuwere, in his decision, had used the “wrong statutes” to dismiss Manyenyeni.
“Media reports state that the minister based his decision to suspend the mayor on Section 114(1)(d)(ii) of the Urban Councils Act.
“Kasukuwere suggests that the mayor breached Section 265(1)(b) of the Constitution.
“Unless the media has misrepresented Kasukuwere’s letter, it is shocking in its glaring omissions and inaccuracies on law.
“I do not know if the minister consulted the Attorney-General, who in terms of the Constitution, is the principal legal advisor to government,” said Magaisa.
“How do you purport to remove a mayor when you fragrantly disregard a clear provision of the Constitution which deals with the issue?”
He argued that any tribunal Kasukuwere might set-up in the absence of a re-alignment of the Urban Councils Act would be illegal. Bere in the Gweru case also ruled the outcome of the hearing by a tribunal set up by Kasukuwere were null and void.
People’s Democratic Party secretary general Gorden Moyo said government through Kasukuwere was showing its appetite for ignoring the Constitution “in pursuit of their parochial and partisan ends”.
“Council authorities have their constitutional mandates to make and take decisions within the areas of their jurisdictions without having to look for signals and approvals from Kasukuwere,” he said.
“They take their cue from the constitution and not from the long dead ZimAsset.
“Kasukuwere should back off. He should familiarise himself with the new Constitution and read his antiquated Urban Councils Act in conjunction with the new canons of the law and not outside of it.”
Manyenyeni, the MDC-T and the Combined Harare Residents Association have all taken legal action against Kasukuwere and experts said this could be a test case. Another residents’ body, the Harare Residents Trust wants Mushore’s appointment reversed “because it was political and the list of candidates should have been sent to the local government board for approval”.