The High Court ruled that the suspension of Gweru City Councilors by the Minister of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Savior Kasukuwere in AugustÂ 2015Â was unconstitutional and the subsequent appointment of a Commission to run the City is null and void. The learned Judge also ruled that the suspensions were a direct violation of the Constitution.
Under the devolution clauses of the new Constitution, the Minister of Local Government no longer has the power to arbitrarily order either the suspension nor the dismissal of an elected Councilor. This is in terms of Sections 264, 276 and 278 ofÂ the Constitution. According to Section 2 of the Constitution, the Constitution is supreme law of Zimbabwe and any law, practice, custom or conductÂ inconsistentÂ with it is invalid to the extent of the inconsistency.
Section 278 provides for the secure tenure of seats of members of Local authorities. The section provides for two (2) ways of removing a Mayor, Chairperson or Councilor from office. The first is under section 278 (1) which is through a recall process similar to that which applies to Members of Parliament and the second is under section 278 (2) which provides that an Act of Parliament must provide for the establishment of an independent Tribunal to exercise the function of removing from office Mayors, Chairpersons and Councilors.
None of these methods was used in the case of Gweru, instead the Minister set up a Committee of inquiry composed of officials who were clearly instructed to establish grounds to suspend the MDC run Council. The Committee carried out the so-called investigation, forcing Councilors to attend their own hearings. This partisan committee produced a report that was then used as a basis for suspending all 13 Councilors.
Those functions are now supposed to be carried out by an independent Tribunal. Once the Tribunal is established then it is the Tribunal and not the Minister who will have the authority and the responsibility of such actions and even then only on certain prescribed grounds.
The days of unbridled authority in the hands of the Minister are over and especially when they involve politically motivated minor allegations against democratically elected Councils.
The MDC would like to bring to the attention of the Minister, his senior staff, Provincial Ministers, Provincial and District Administrators that they can no longer issue directives and instructions to Local Authorities. Their instructions include rescinding resolutions made by Councils. All of these actions by the central Government are now unconstitutional because Section 276 which provides for the functions of local authorities stipulates that â€¦ â€œa local authority has the right to govern, on its own initiative, the local affairs of the people within the area for which it has been establishedâ€¦.â€
In that regard the Minister therefore has absolutely no role in the day to day administration of Local authorities, he should therefore accept that Local Authorities now have devolved power and are no longer subjectÂ to directives from the Ministry.Â To add on to that Section 274 (2) clearly states that Urban â€œLocal Authorities are managed by Councils composed of councilors elected by registered voters in the urban areas concerned and presided over by elected mayors or chairpersonsâ€¦. â€œ
The MDCÂ therefore urges the Minister and his staff to limit their deficient Local Government management skills to the facilitation of increased funding for all local Authorities so that they can fulfill their new mandate at their own initiative.
MDC: Equal Opportunities for allPost published in: Featured