BY MOSES MATENGA
Harare and Bulawayo residents say they have been caught in the crossfire in the ongoing opposition power struggles after the Thokozani Khupe-led MDC-T engineered the mass recalling of councillors in MDC Alliance-controlled urban centres.
Khupe’s faction has so far recalled 84 councillors, who it charges have stopped representing the interests of the MDC-T. The affected councillors were elected on the ticket of the Nelson Chamisa-led MDC Alliance.
Harare is now virtually on autopilot after more than 23 councillors including former mayor Herbert Gomba, his deputy Enoch Mupamaonde and several committee chairpersons were removed from office.
Scores of councillors in Bulawayo were also recalled recently, leaving the local authority severely handicapped.
The MDC Alliance controls 28 out of 32 urban local authorities but its dominance came under threat after the Supreme Court ruled in March that Khupe was the legitimate leader of the MDC-T.
“The recalls will have a negative impact on service delivery and will further push residents to the periphery of decision-making processes as they will be left without representation,” residents’ associations from across the country said in a communiqué after a meeting last week.
Khupe is this week expected to launch another wave of recalls that have a potential to incapacitate most MDC Alliance-controlled local authorities.
“It is high time that residents associations engage Zanu PF, MDC Alliance and MDC-T as these recalls have a potential to plunge the country into a crisis, in fact it’s a national crisis,” local government expert and former Combined Harare Residents Association (CHRA) director Mfundo Mlilo said.
Former Harare mayor Bernard Manyenyeni described the recalls as brutal.
“Should the rumoured brutal recall (of mayor Jacob Mafume) succeed, for the first time in the history of the City of Harare we would have neither the mayor nor deputy; possibly no council committees and no chairmen of committees, no substantive executives,” Manyenyeni said.
“Out of a total of 46 municipal wards, some 23 seats would be vacant — without elected councillors — courtesy of these political party recalls — bullets have been flying and hitting.”
Harare Residents Trust boss Precious Shumba said there was need to return to a dispensation where cities and towns were run by executive mayors.
Shumba said there was also need to make the office of mayor non-political to avoid disruptions like the ones caused by the recalls.
“Remember (former Harare mayor Muchadeyi) Masunda from 2008 to 2013 was chosen from outside elected councillors, but (former mayor) Manyenyeni was elected from among the councillors and that’s why he would hold the residents in contempt but get away with it at party level,” he said.
Masunda was elected from outside council after being identified by the then prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai whose party was in control of the capital with 45 out of the 46 councillors.
A respected lawyer and businessman, Masunda had several accomplishments as mayor that saw him resuscitating twinning agreements with the city of Munich in Germany and sourced €500 000, which was used to secure drugs and medical accessories for Beatrice Road and Wilkins infectious diseases hospitals, 12 polyclinics and 30 primary health care centres.
He also resuscitated twinning arrangements with the city of Cincinnati in Ohio, United States, Nottingham in the United Kingdom, established a twinning agreement with Guangzhou in China and Kazan City in the Russian Federation.
During his tenure, Masunda sourced US$5 million through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for the construction of 486 houses in Dzivarasekwa Extension for members of the Zimbabwe Homeless People’s Federation.
He also put Harare on the world map, as most organisations were happy to engage outside political parties, and was elected president of the United Cities and Local Governments where he represented Africa.