Political ructions and corruption within the Harare City Council have raised the prospect of a government appointed Commission taking over from the MDC led Council.
The state is already laying the groundwork for a Commmission with state publications reporting on alleged residents pushing for this.
“A proposal has been put forward to allow Harare City Council to be run temporarily by a commission, amid reports that the Government was seriously considering the option following the arrest of top city officials and Mayor Herbert Gomba after being implicated in land scams”.
“Residents groups are also pushing for the Government to appoint the commission, which they say is long overdue as a result of deep-rooted corruption that has seen allegations of councillors conniving with management to prejudice council”, one of them reported earlier this week.
Local Government Minister July Moyo has been vague and this week said, ““There are constitutional procedures that are supposed to be followed when appointing a commission and as Government we are yet to do that,” he said.
Is it Legal?
According to the City Council the appointment of the commission is provided for in Section 80 of the Urban Councils Act (Chapter 29:15).
According to the Act, “the Minister (of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing) may appoint commissioners to act as council”.
Government has previously appointed a three-member commission to preside over Harare City Council business before the swearing-in of new councillors in 2018.
The commission was chaired by Ms Bella Manyakara while the other two members were Mr Shingai Mutumbwa and Mrs C. Kampila.
Prior to this government also appointed another Commission in 2006 led by nomadic political turncoat Sekesai Makwavarara.
The Sekesai Makwavarara appointed Commission ran City of Harare until December 2008.
The commission was made up of then Zanu PF’s Mbare East losing candidate Tendai Savanhu as deputy chairman, lawyer Terence Hussein, Mashonaland Central committee member Prisca Mupfumira, Professor James Kurasha, Noel Muzuva, Michael Mahachi, and a Mrs V Chasi.
Makwavarara, arrived at Town House on an MDC ticket, replaced fired mayor Elias Mudzuri before defecting to Zanu PF, stirring outrage over her extravagant spending.
First was the proposal to furnish the mayoral mansion at a cost of $35 billion, followed by the acquisition of a $104 million satellite dish she had installed at the mayoral mansion without approval.
Makwavarara also proceeded to spend over $175 million on groceries at the commission’s expense and allegedly purchased a council house at a cost of $5 billion.
Independent valuers pegged the house at $20 billion.
The Illegality of Commissions
The Combined Harare Reaidents Association (CHRA) has previously stated that the Urban Councils Act spells out that such commissions have a limited tenure of six months and during that time it had to ensure that elections are held.
In 2001 CHRA forced government through the courts to hold elections, which subsequently ejected the illegal Elijah Chanakira Commission after three years at the helm of Town House
However currently the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) has already suspended elections due to Covid and so it remains to be seen how the situation will be dealt with.
Lack of Popular Will
Critics have been adamant that Commissions, lacking popular will and support, generally fail to be developmental due to their caretakership approach.
Under Makwavarara service delivery became worse as suburbs went for weeks on end without water culminating in the outbreaks of cholera.
Mountains of uncollected refuse began to appear, raw sewage flowed in some suburbs, there were poor roads and lack of street lighting among others which became a common feature in the city.
Thus if government does go and bring in a Commission for Harare, development may the last thing on anyone’s mind at Town House.