Centenary celebrations in limbo

The much-anticipated celebrations to mark the city’s 100 years of existence have been plunged into doubt amid a racket of challenges. These include reports of infighting in the committee tasked to spearhead the programme, a planned demonstration by council workers, who have not been paid their salaries on time since the beginning of the year, disgruntlement of residents and general financial constraints.

Town House western wing during renovations.
Town House western wing during renovations.

The official launch of the celebrations has now been postponed three times – and it’s no longer clear when the actual date for the event will be known.

Early this year several clusters were put together to come up with programmes that would run from July to December to commemorated the centenary. These included church, entertainment, arts, publicity and fundraising committees.

Sources told The Zimbabwean that one of the major hindrances has been that some top council officials had come up with unjustifiable events and programmes that would line their pockets leading to an outcry by those in the organising committees.

“We had a case, for example, where a top official said he would provide over 10,000 T-Shirts at a cost of $8 each when it is known that if imported, one could cost less than a dollar. That official rejected the idea of importing and wanted the fundraising committee and council to pay him that money. Basically that was beginning of the in-fighting.

“There were other projects pegged at between $24,000 and $35,000 that had been bull-dozed into the programme where one would just feel the council officials wanted to use everyone involved to line their pockets,” said a committee member who requested anonymity.

Council workers insisted if the management decided to go ahead and celebrate while they live in penury because of non-payment of salaries, they would demonstrate and embarrass everyone at the official launch. The council workers have had their salaries delayed by months since beginning of the year and at the moment they are yet to receive their dues for June.

Commenting on the matter, Kudakwashe Munengiwa, secretary for the Zimbabwe Urban Council Workers Union, said demonstrations would always be the last thing they would do though some members were pushing for it.

“We have received the reports of the council workers who are just saying there cannot be celebrations by parents of a house in which the children are starving. However, we are saying we still have an opportunity to talk to management in proper channels if there are grievances and so I just hope things will not reach that far,” he said.

Cornelia Selipiwe, chairperson of the Gweru Residents Association, said members simply wanted improved service delivery – like patching pot-holes, a smooth supply of water and timely collection of refuse – not celebrations.

Mayor Hamutendi Kombayi insisted that the celebrations would go ahead. “People who have visited town house may see that we are already making some renovations so that the place is ready for the commemorations. Yes there are some challenges but we remain committed to overcoming them and I see us succeeding in that,” he said.

The chairperson of the centenary celebrations steering committee, Ward 4 Councillor Kenneth Sithole, said there was still time to pull everything together. “There are plans to visit Bulawayo which celebrated 120 years recently to see how they held the commemorations. I am certain we should be able to hold our own celebrations despite all the difficulties that are there today,” he said.

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  1. Bingo wokwa Gutu
  2. kada munengiwa

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