City Fathers complain of army meddling

The army is bulldozing itself into local authorities, seizing council land and revenue- generating projects, several mayors told Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai here on Friday.

Gathered for the Urban Councils Association of Zimbabwe five-year strategic planning meeting, they told Tsvangirai that virtually every local authority in the country was a victim of interference by the army, war veterans and Zanu (PF)-sponsored Chipangano Youth Movement. Tsvangirai heard that in Mutare, Major General Douglas Nyikayaramba forcibly established a squatter camp on council land for political gain, without approval from the local authority. Masvingo municipality is struggling to recover unpaid bills from the local 4 Brigade military base. Efforts to secure settlement of outstanding bills are met with stiff resistance sometimes accompanied by threats.

The Harare City Council lost control over Hatcliff Flea Markets to Chipangano, which collects revenue from vendors despite the project being owned by the local authority. The council has been threatened with unspecified action by Chipangano and some army personnel should it dare lay claim over the informal markets.

In Marondera, war veterans supported by Zanu (PF) are positioning themselves to take charge of the proposed 4,500 housing units at Hunyani residential project. They have resolved that the project be put on ice until next elections are held. They fear that since the project was a brain-child of MDC-T City Fathers, an early launch of the scheme would give political mileage to Tsvangirai and the MDC. The mayors also raised concerns over ‘partisan’ allocation of road development funds by the Zimbabwe National Roads Authority.

“Allocation of the funds tended to favor Zanu (PF)-controlled rural councils at the expense of urban local authorities run by MDC. Imagine a small local authority like Chaminuka District Council with such little traffic receiving an allocation of $3 million, while the capital city Harare with its high traffic volume being allocated a mere $50,000. Marondera Municipality was allocated $150,000 on paper, but nothing on the ground suggests the local authority would benefit from the funds anytime soon,” said the mayors.

Tsvangirai said he would raise some of the issues in cabinet to help chart the way forward.

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