Human rights lawyer whacks Chombo with lawsuit for usurping mayor’s powers

A human rights lawyer, Tawanda Zhuwarara has petitioned the High Court seeking an order to quash a directive issued by Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Minister Hon. Ignatius Chombo to reinstate Dr Tendai Mahachi as Harare City Council (HCC) Town Clerk.

Ignatius Chombo
Ignatius Chombo

Dr Mahachi was suspended by Harare Mayor Bernard Manyenyeni on Wednesday 29 January 2014 in conformity with the Mayor’s exercise of his prerogative in terms of Section 139 (3) (a) of the Urban Councils Act for allegedly failing to properly discharge his duties after he refused to give effect to a Council resolution to provide the salary and benefits schedule of all Harare City Council senior employees including his own schedule. The suspension, Manyenyeni said would pave the way to probe Dr Mahachi’s conduct and also launch investigations into the affairs and finances of the HCC.

But Hon. Chombo on 1 February 2014 overturned Dr Mahachi’s suspension on the basis that he was empowered under Section 134 of the Urban Councils Act (Chapter 29:15) to reverse Manyenyeni’s decision.

Hon. Chombo’s actions infuriated Zhuwarara who protested that such a move was objectionable and that his purported powers in terms of Section 314 of the Urban Councils Act can only be exercised in regards to Council and not Mayoral decisions.

In an urgent chamber application filed on Wednesday 5 February 2014 (Case Number 959/14), the human rights lawyer said Hon. Chombo’s directive was premature and a nullity at law since the HCC is yet to make its determination in terms of Section 139 (4) of the Urban Councils Act and only after the process in terms of Section 139 (4) of the Urban Councils Act has been completed does the suspension of Dr Mahachi become a resolution of the Council.

As a rate paying resident of Harare, Zhuwarara asked the High Court to issue an order declaring that Hon. Chombo’s directive ordering the reinstatement of Dr Mahachi as Town Clerk be quashed.

He argued that the return of Dr Mahachi to occupy his position at HCC would hinder investigations into the salary scales of senior employees at Town House at a time when the values of openness and transparency have been given life to by the Constitution.

Zhuwarara accused Hon. Chombo of shielding Dr Mahachi from scrutiny at a time when the HCC is clearly failing in its mandate to the hard pressed residents of Harare. The human rights lawyer said as elected representatives, councilors have oversight over council employees in order to increase fiscal accountability, efficiency and transparency.

The human rights lawyer resorted to litigation after Hon. Chombo disregarded a one-day ultimatum to him by Zhuwarara’s lawyer, Bellinda Chinowawa of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) on Tuesday 4 February 2014 asking the Minister to immediately rescind his decision on Dr Mahachi by 14:00 hours on Wednesday 5 February 2014 because it was premature and a nullity at law.

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  1. Nyamhangambiri

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