“Chombo has no powers to meddle in council affairs”

MDC-T national spokesperson, Obert Gutu, has said the local government minister must not interfere with council affairs as the constitution that was adopted in 2013 after a referendum has clipped his wings.

MDC-T national spokesperson, Obert Gutu
MDC-T national spokesperson, Obert Gutu

Ignatius Chombo, who has held the reins at the ministry for a long time has been criticised for having excessive powers that allowed him to meddle in the affairs of municipal authorities.

“The new constitution of Zimbabwe has changed the basis of the relationship between the Ministry of Local Government and the councils that administer local authorities throughout the country. For the first time the Constitution clearly sets out a system of devolved authority and responsibility for elected Councils that are responsible for either Rural District Councils or Urban Councils,” said Gutu.

The new constitution now mandates councils to operate as government authorities in their areas with full responsibility for the affairs, interests and needs of the people living in council jurisdictions areas.

Thus, the minister no longer has the right or authority to give directives, suspend or dismiss elected councillors as used to be the case.

“It is therefore not correct for the minister, or the ministry, to issue directives to councils on how they should operate. Rather this function is now left to the electorate in each council district to instruct their elected representatives and to hold them accountable for the manner in which the affairs of each Council are administered.

“Council staff, including all senior officers and the town clerks or chief executive officers, are employees of council and are therefore subject to instruction and discipline by their elected councils who have complete executive authority in such matters today. All that the ministry has is oversight responsibility and advice,” said Gutu.

His statement comes at a time there is a war at the Harare City Council over the eviction of vendors from the city centre. The MDC-T dominated council is against the evictions while Chombo’s ministry is pushing for their removal.

“The minister and his permanent secretary do not seem to understand this new situation and continue to act as if the new constitution does not exist. The MDC reminds the minister that the constitution is now the supreme law of the country and compliance with its dictates are obligatory on all who live in Zimbabwe,” added Gutu.

“Of particular concern is the continued attempt by elements of the Joint Operations Command and the Ministry, to force local authorities to evict small scale business persons from their places of business in all urban councils.

“Whatever their motivation, the MDC rejects such attempts to disrupt the normal and ordinary activities of citizens in urban areas,” he added.

Gutu said there was need to conduct formal consultations with small organisations on how and where to operate, registration of informal traders and designating trading areas that are mutually acceptable between local authorities and vendors.

Once relocated, the vendors must be charged minimal fees while there ought to be formalisation of street trading at designated sites.

He discouraged the involvement of the military in the ongoing vendor saga.

Post published in: News

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