Business grinds to a halt at Town House

Augustine Mukaro

BUSINESS at Town House has come to a standstill as government remains mum on the future of the Sekesai Makwavarara-led commission, forcing the administration to suspend all committee meetings.

The commission’s tenure expired on June

9, and government has not communicated anything, leaving an administration vacuum at council.

Town clerk Nomutsa Chideya confirmed that all committee meetings have been suspended pending a decision from the central government.

“We have not received any communication from government,” Chideya said. “We had no option but to suspend committee meetings until we get a directive from our parent ministry.”

Despite the expiry of her tenure, Makwavarara this week reported for work. She toured Rowan Martin treasury department on Wednesday.

Committees are made up of commissioners or councillors but after the expiry of their term, they cannot convene any meetings without a fresh mandate through appointment or elections.

Local Government minister Ignatius Chombo could not be reached for comment as he was said to be in Beitbridge.
Government is divided on whether to extend the commission’s term and face a flurry of legal challenges from civil organisations calling for elections in which government is sure to lose its grip on the capital. Chombo is understood to have strongly opposed calls for elections.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission only said it was still consulting with local authorities on the prospects of elections in Harare but could not give a specific time-frame.

“Councils are the ones that fund elections,” ZEC spokesman Utloile Silaigwana said this week. “We don’t know when the consultations are going to finish.”  

As confusion reigns, residents’ associations have intensified calls for a rates boycott and legal actions to pressure government into calling for mayoral and council elections for Harare.

Combined Harare Residents Association (CHRA), an umbrella body representing residents, said it has now adopted a double-pronged approach of legal action and civil disobedience in their pursuit of elections.

“We have filed papers in the High Court,” CHRA chairman Mike Davies said in an interview this week. “Other than the legal action, we have intensified calls for a rates boycott under the banner ‘do not fund your own oppression’.

“We would also appeal to corporate businesses and other stakeholders to withdraw their rates as we lobby for elections. Corporates contribute 70% of the council revenue,” he said.

Davies said water disconnections were illegal as water was a human rights issue. “We will go to court over any water cut-offs,” he said. In 2002 CHRA obtained a Supreme Court judgement forcing government to hold elections which ushered in the now fired Elias Mudzuri administration.