Transcript of Harare Mayor on Question Time: Part 2

The Mayor of Harare, Muchadeyi Masunda, joins SW Radio Africa journalist Lance Guma for part 2 of this Question Time interview. Masunda responds to allegations that his directorship of dozens of companies creates a conflict of interest, given that some of these companies might have dealings with the City of Harare. The Mayor answers many other questions sent in by SW Radio Africa listeners.


Lance Guma: Good evening Zimbabwe and thank you for joining me on Question Time. This is Part Two of our interview with the Mayor of Harare, Muchadeyi Masunda. He joins us on the programme to answer questions from you the listener. Mayor Masunda thank you for joining us once again.

Muchadeyi Masunda: It’s my pleasure.

Guma: Now first question to get the ball rolling for this week – we have a question from Mike Davies, I’m sure you’re familiar with him – former chairperson of the Combined Harare Residents Association.

Now he says – was he (Masunda) re-elected as mayor each year since 2008 as required by the Urban Councils Act? And he says will elections for local government be held this year as required by the Act? And he puts in there – local government elections were not suspended by the interim political agreement or were they? If not, how does he justify this denial of our democratic rights?

Masunda: Well to the best of my knowledge, when I came into office as from the 1st of July 2008 it was on the clear understanding that it’s a five year term and that five year term comes up in 2013 unless in between, there’s yet another set of harmonized elections.

I’m not too sure the particular sections that Mike Davies is referring to but what used to happen in the past was the mayoral position would be up for grabs amongst the elected councilors on an annual basis but that situation may well have changed, but I can’t be certain.

But I think the position is from where I sit, is that I’m in there for five years and I’ve done 44 months and come end of June, I’d have been in harness for four years and with another year to go.

Guma: But what is the requirement under the Urban Councils Act?

Masunda: If you recall, there was an amendment to the Urban Councils Act in the build-up towards the harmonized elections. I’m not exactly certain with particular reference to this point that Mike Davies has raised but the two significant amendments that were made to the Urban Councils Act in the build-up towards the harmonized elections that took place in March 2008 was;

1) the democratically elected councilors were given either of two options to choose a mayor: either they stick to the meeting and choose a mayor from amongst themselves, the democratically elected councilors or alternatively they go to civic society and look for anybody with enough grey hairs, enough gravitas and preferably with a bullet-proof skin to take up this onerous responsibility of being Mayor of Harare.

And that’s how I came onto the team. The second amendment, let me finish off that, that was made, significant amendment that was made to the Urban Councils Act is that whoever became the Minister responsible for Local Government, Rural and Urban Development would have the unfettered prerogative of choosing personal interest councilors not in excess of 25% of the democratically elected councilors.

And in the case of Harare a quarter of 46 is 11 and as it turns out, after the GNU came into existence, Dr Ignatious Morgan Chiminya Chombo was appointed the Minister of Local Government, Rural and Urban Development and he in due course exercised his prerogative to choose the 11 special interest councilors.

So we have a compliment of 46 democratically elected councilors and 11 special interest councilors appointed by the Minister.

Guma: What’s your position of these special interest councilors because in other urban councils they’ve simply been accused of being Zanu PF surrogates smuggled in, so to speak, to try and dilute the influence of the MDC given that many of the Zanu PF candidates had lost the council elections?

Masunda: Yes it is a difficult one but in the case of Harare, I have been on record in the past as having said I’m not unhappy with some of the special interest councilors that the Minister appointed and out of the 11, I have said and I repeat, five of them are performers and there are six who are passengers and one of those passengers has since thrown in the towel.

He did so last Monday the 20th of February and this is Charles Nyachowe. So the Minister will in due course exercise his prerogative once again by appointing a replacement for the former councilor, Charles Nyachowe.

Guma: Okay let me quickly move on to another subject – from Donny Ndowe comes an email that quotes a recent article, titled “Curbing Corporate Incest” and he accuses you of being a leader in, or this article rather, accused you of being a leader in both the public and private sectors, a practice which according to the article, yields a high fertile ground for corruption, nepotism and all other vices.

He says how does Mayor Masunda respond to that? The Who is Who in Africa confirms he is Mayor of Harare and either a director or chairman of 13 different companies, some of which have dealings with City council in one way or the other.

Masunda: Well for a start, that article has got a few things wrong. They are relying on information which is horribly out of date, that’s for starters, but dealing with the (inaudible) of the issue, the alleged irreconcilable conflict of interest.

I think the key thing here, especially for the Philistines like the person who has raised this point, is to appreciate that there is what is called a Full Declaration of Interests which I did right at the outset when I was approached to take up this onerous position.

Now the critical thing is to do, the next step having made a full disclosure of the various companies in which you have an interest however remote that interest may be, the next critical step is to then manage that situation and so far I have managed that situation admirably, even if I say so myself.

Because on all occasions where there is a conflict of interest or there maybe conflict of interest however remote that conflict may be, I have always recused myself from the deliberations of the issue that is on the table.

Guma: Why you are still at this, let me throw in this question because it might help your answer. A similar question did come also from Mike Davies, who says Masunda is chairman of Old Mutual which is probably the biggest corporate landowner property/manager in Harare, has the Mayor declared all his and Old Mutual’s business interests in the City? Has he ever had cause to recuse himself from council business when these interests have been discussed?

Masunda: That’s a good point and that’s precisely what I was going to get onto. Now I made a full disclosure of my interest’s right at the outset and I’m pleased to say that I’m probably the only person on the City Council of Harare who did so.

I’m unaware of anybody else who did so and I do so religiously every year or whenever there’s been a change in the various companies in which I’ve an interest, I’ve submitted an updated list of my interest.

Now to zero in specifically on Old Mutual; I was in a way instrumental in persuading Old Mutual to play its part with regard to the housing projects that are currently on the verge of being implemented in Budiriro and one other high density area in Harare.

And Old Mutual came to the party I’m delighted to say that and put in fifteen million dollars and for the last ten, if not more, years we have not seen any meaningful housing development in Harare never mind Zimbabwe and I made sure that whenever that matter came up for discussion, either at committee level or at full council level or at special council level, I recued myself from that debate.

Guma: Okay I suppose point taken on that, I’ll quickly have to move on to another question since we’re running out of time. I have another question from somebody who says – what has the Council done to raise revenue besides continuing to squeeze money out of residents? He says the Council is more famous for chasing vendors and clamping cars.

Masunda: (laughs…) Well there’s various other avenues that are currently being explored, like establishing, potentially lucrative joint ventures with various players. We’ve got this Easy Park arrangement which is a joint venture between City of Harare and Easyhold Proprietors Limited, it’s a South African company and that is raising a fair amount of revenue for the City’s coffers.

And we are looking into identifying suitable partners for our quarry – you know the quarry that is on the way to the airport and there are many other instances where the City’s assets have not over the years been made to sweat. Just to give you an example, we have three farms that are on the periphery of the City; Pension Farm, Crowbrow Farm and Ingwe Farm.

And as we speak we have between six and seven thousand head of cattle and I’ve caused a desktop survey to be done by the Commercial Farmers Union and the outcome of that desktop survey is that the carrying capacity of those three farms is between 11 and 13 thousand head of cattle. So we are currently looking into establishing a joint venture with any company, local or international in order to exploit the synergies that can come out of the herd of cattle that we have.

Guma: Let me quickly go back to the subject of water because we have a lot of follow up questions from people after the interview that we had last week and it boils down to really do you as a council require any help from central government and if so are your water problems something that has been taken to cabinet level for discussion and are there any cabinet resolutions on how this should be done?

Masunda: Yah I think the first point that has to be appreciated is that Samuel Sipepa Nkomo, the Minister of Water, Resources Management and Development is the ultimate custodian of anything to do with water in the country.

But by the same token I think you need to appreciate that his ministry and central government indeed, they’ve got either limited capacity or no capacity to generate or mobilize the resources that are required to get projects that have been gathering dust on the shelf for the last 30 years if not more, like Kunzwi Dam.

And the city is better placed to mobilize those resources and we would for instance in the case of Kunzwi Dam be looking at 539 million dollars and that would yield around between 250 and 270 mega litres.

And then we should do almost simultaneously because we’ve run out of time and back on another project that is the Musanhi Dam which is not too far from the site for Kunzwi and that would require 885 million dollars and that would yield 450 mega litres.

So those are two projects which ought to have been done by now and they will add 250 plus 450, we are looking at 700 mega litres on top of the current installed capacity of 704 in respect of Morton Jaffrey and PE.

And then longer term, I think five years down the track, we would need to be looking at Mazowe Dam which would yield 1250 mega litres and that would effectively take care of the water blues in the capitol city and the satellite towns.

And unfortunately because of our central government’s track record, the institutional funders of projects of this nature and magnitude are understandably reluctant to work with government but they are not averse to working with the City because the City’s track record is fairly good and Cities are going to be there until kingdom come.

So for instance, I’ll be presenting a paper in Marseille France on the 12th to the 17th of March at the World Sixth Water Forum and on the sidelines of that Forum obviously I’ll be talking to a whole lot of people that would be, have an appetite for the kind of projects that I’ve just described.

What must be appreciated Lance, is that we should be complementing each others’ efforts – Central government and Local government. It’s not about upstaging each other. I’m not in any way trying to show up my old friend Samuel Sipepa Nkomo but just assisting him in the full knowledge that he’s the person that ultimately is responsible for anything that has water in this country.

Guma: Okay, in the two minutes that we have left, final question comes from Monica who’s in Budiriro and she wants to know – “Mayor Masunda, since you’ve been in office, what would you count as your major achievements so far?”

Masunda: My achievements are too many to enumerate you know. We have had for instance the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation pouring five million dollars for the regeneration of the high density areas.

We’ve had support from various COPEC entities and again too many to mention and more recently we had Peter Lobels donating two fire engines to the City and of course the Old Mutual/CABS housing project would not have happened if it hadn’t been for the leadership and the influence that I brought to bear upon the council’s operations.

Guma: Well Zimbabwe, that brings us to the end of this Question Time interview, Part Two with the Mayor of Harare Muchadeyi Masunda. Mayor Masunda thank you so much for your time.

Masunda: My pleasure and I look forward to fielding more questions.

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