Judge reinstates councillors

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's MDC party has applauded a High Court ruling ordering the reinstatement of four Harare MDC councillors who were unfairly dismissed by the Local Government minister, Ignatius Chombo for alleged corruption last year.

Justice Barat Patel acquitted MDC councillors, Maxwell Katsande ward 26, Johnson Zaranyika ward 39, Paul Gorekore ward 3 and Silas Machetu ward 25, over allegations of irregularly acquiring stands and forcing themselves into council houses.

Justice Patel said in his ruling Chombo had blatantly ignored evidence presented to him absolving the four councillors of any wrongdoing but proceeded to fire the four.

“The town clerk and deputy director of housing were not called to testify at the inquiry and moreover the commission totally ignored the evidence of the director of housing and that of chief housing officer which evidence clearly exculpated the applicants of any wrongdoing,” Justice Patel said in his ruling.

“In short the findings of guilt in relation to all four applicants were so grossly irrational in their defiance of logic that no reasonable person applying his mind to the matter could possibly have arrived at those decisions,” Patel said.

He said Chombo was directed by his handpicked commission to fire the councillors and blatantly disregarded the detailed record of proceedings of the inquiry and the evidence contained therein.

“If he (Chombo) had done so he would not have simply adopted the commission’s findings and recommendations of dismissal,” Justice Patel's ruling says.

The MDC said the ruling confirmed oft-repeated allegations of Chombo's meddling in MDC-run councils.

"Once again, the MDC stands vindicated that the interference by Chombo in MDC led councils is nothing but political," the MDC said in a statement.

The MDC says it knew that the councillors were innocent.

"We agree with High Court judge, Justice Bharat Patel’s ruling that the decision by the probe team, assembled by Chombo to investigate the councillors, was based on a 'grossly irrational' judgment," the MDC statement said.

The MDC said the councillors dismissal by Chombo was "nothing but part of his grand political plot to stop Harare councillors from investigating him for corruption involving prime council land in Harare."

"If there is anyone who must be fired for corruption, it is Chombo himself for the massive wealth and property which could only have been corruptly acquired. Chombo has dismally failed to explain the source of all this wealth," the MDC statement says.

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