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Harare a time bomb – Mushonga

Ngoni Chanakira

WITH empty coffers and no borrowing powers the City of Harare is a time bomb just waiting to explode, says medical practitioner and business tycoon Chris Mushonga.

P>Mushonga, the MDC chairman of the Harare City Council’s housing, health and educational committee and a member of the executive committee, told businessdigest in an interview that the politics at Town House had “bled” the capital city.

He said the final straw could have been delivered on Friday last week when Public Works and National Housing minister Ignatious Chombo booted executive mayor Elias Mudzuri out of office.

President Robert Mugabe using his presidential powers blessed the move.

“The City Council is broke because we inherited a financial situation which was in a shambles,” Mushonga said. “The City Council is also broke because we have not been given borrowing powers by government despite having applied for these on numerous occasions. We are not credit-worthy and no bank dreams about giving the City of Harare even a cent.

“The Treasury department is in a shambles. Actually our external auditors are writing a report on all this for all to see and judge. There hasn’t been an audited report since 2001 and, obviously, no responsible bank would give you money without audited accounts.”

Mushonga said the parent ministry had worsened matters by not giving the City of Harare borrowing powers.

“Government normally approved borrowing powers when Zanu PF councillors were running the city. They have now stopped doing so, possibly to see the MDC team’s downfall. Staff have been receiving their salaries late for the past two months,” Mushonga said. “We always give them budgets but they do not bother about them unless it suits them yet projects become more expensive.

“We were given a loan for reticulation and pumping for Harare but this is nowhere to be seen.”

He said council was also faced with a serious foreign currency shortage to secure chemicals used to treat water and repair dilapidated equipment such as at the Morton Jaffray Waterworks – the capital city’s major supplier of drinking water.

“Right now with the government we have in power no international creditor wants to do business with Zimbabwe,” he said. “We seriously need to go back to the international community for funding for various projects. We definitely cannot go-it-alone. This business of twinning has not helped us either because we are not benfitting from it.”

Harare is twinned with Munich in Germany.

The financially beleaguered council is now more synonymous with political and tribal balancing acts instead of serving ratepayers.

Two months ago council asked residents to rubber-stamp a $48,6 billion package for various projects for its departments.

The move however riled residents who are currently up in arms over having to foot bills for dilapidated infrastructure, shoddy services and escalating rates being charged by the council.

Fired Harare executive mayor Mudzuri, who since installation has been engaged in running battles with Chombo, has pointed out that besides the shocking record trillion-dollar budget, recent rate hikes were unjustifiably high and a rip off to residents – already overburdened by other commitments such as electricity, health and social services.

Mudzuri, like Mushonga also entered Town House on an MDC ticket.

Council insiders said Harare City Council had been reduced to a “boxing match between Minister Chombo (Zezuru) and Mudzuri (Karanga)” with each trying to out-do the other.

Chombo initially suspended and then last week finally fired Mudzuri using the Urban Councils Act, leaving former deputy mayor Sekesai Makwavarara to act as executive mayor.

Makwavarara has quit the MDC, accusing the opposition party of meddling in her day-to-day duties.

“We cannot rule out tribal politics at Town House,” Mushonga said in the interview. “Give me a good citizen whether Zezuru, Karanga or Ndebele anywhere and I will support them. We need individuals who think professionally and globally and not tribally. I guess in this case Chombo has won.”

Mushonga however said the MDC would not take the matter lying down, as it always believed in fighting for its rights.

He said what was surprising about events at Town House was that Mudzuri had been fired using reports that “nobody has seen”.

“We are told about a Kurasha Report and a Tomana Report but none of us has seen it,” he said. “We have been kept in the dark on the two reports and yet they are the ones being used as a basis for firing the mayor as well as to determine the fate of councillors and ratepayers.”

Insiders said the recent appointment of Harare metropolitan governor Witness Mangwende, a former minister, was meant to dilute Mudzuri’s influence and activities at Town House.

President Mugabe also gave Zimbabwe’s second largest city, Bulawayo, to Cain Mathema the country’s former envoy to Zambia. The executive mayor in Bulawayo is Abednico Ncube.

“How can an elected mayor report to an appointed governor?” Mushonga asked. “Whose mandate, other than Mugabe’s, does this man (Mangwende) have? All this was done to frustrate Mudzuri.”

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