Should Harare residents brace for another Chombo-appointed commission, like the one which was headed by Sekesai Makwavarara, to run the city as the conflict between the two continues to deepen?
Mudzuri was dismissed on the grounds of being “incompetent” after he clashed on several issues with Chombo regarding the running of affairs at Town House.
This time around it is Chombo versus Masunda.
A number of issues have been at the centre of the fight between Masunda and Chombo and as the saying goes “when elephants fight it’s the grass that suffers” — the residents.
Residents are confused about what is exactly going on and who is supposed to run their affairs.
At the moment the biggest clash involves the Mupedzanhamo flea market, which the council argues should be closed because some of the people operating there were undeserving and should be removed.
They also argue that the market stalls should be reallocated with people like widows, the unemployed and elderly benefiting and not government officials, business executives and former civic leaders, who allegedly dominate the current list.
This prompted Chombo to interfere by forming a five-member committee chaired by director of Civil Protection Unit in his ministry Madzudzo Pawadyira to probe the operations at Mupedzanhamo and other city markets in Harare.
Chombo was reported to have said that only a government-appointed committee had the powers to close the market if need be and the council has since lost the fight.
Mupedzanhamo has attracted attention from a number of politicians such as Energy deputy minister Hubert Nyanhongo, and Zanu PF politburo member Oppah Muchinguri who have been accused of meddling in council affairs.
Asked this week by the Zimbabwe Independent about his role in the council, Nyanhongo said as a politician he was representing his people.
Nyanhongo said: “Mayor Masunda should know that the stalls at Mupedzanhamo were there before him. He has no right to tell us politicians to stop defending our people. It is our duty as politicians to make sure that our people are protected, not harassed and mishandled by other citizens.
“The idea is that if they want to remove people from flats in Mbare they should have a provision where to accommodate people while they do their renovations — same with the stalls.”
He said Masunda should not abuse the inclusive government to do whatever he wanted.
“He should stop thinking like a small boy,” Nyanhongo said.
“If he continues doing that we will tell the people to chase him out of our office and we have the mandate and power to do so. The Mayor is nothing without the people. That office belongs to the people. He should be proud of Harare residents.”
The dualisation of the US$80 million Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo Expressway (Airport Road) and construction of the US$40 million Warren Hills Golf Estate housing project are other issues which Chombo and council are at loggerheads over.
Council resolved that the projects be put on hold because proper procedures were not followed and that the deals were crafted by people with vested interests. But in revoking the council resolutions, Chombo said the deals would benefit Harare residents.
In July the mayor and the minister differed on the calibre of special interest councillors with Masunda describing them as lacking in capacity and urging Chombo to appoint people with the requisite skills like strong engineering and accounting backgrounds.
However, Chombo said he was happy with his appointments saying all had degrees in different fields such as business, finance and law while others were accomplished farmers and businesspeople.
There were also clashes over payment of the water bills in Mabvuku and Tafara, with even the Minster of Water Sipepa Nkomo coming to Chombo’s side and declaring that: “I am the authority on water. It does not matter who delivers it.”
But Chombo has since denied interfering in council business arguing that it was a “correction of errors”.
Speaking to the Independent on Wednesday, Masunda said it was “not all the time that Chombo has got his way”.
He said: “We managed to bring back Engineer Christopher Zvobgo and Misheck Mubvumbi despite calls by the minister not to have them back. He is the one who created the problem that culminated in the dismissal of the two. We implemented them without a problem.”
He said a committee of the council was going to work with Chombo’s committee on the Mupedzanhamo saga.
“A relevant committee of the city council is now going to work closely with the committee put together by the ministry. The police are also going to get involved in the restoration and maintenance of order at the stalls,” Masunda said. “We are not going back on our quest but we want to do so in conjunction with what has been put in place. Clashing with ministers — whether they are Zanu PF or MDC — are not considerations in my mind. In my mind, the interests that are at stake are those that involve the vulnerable.”
He said Chombo had no business to get involved in a purely administrative matter while he suspected that Nyanhongo’s involvement could be because of personal interests.
“In the Ministry of Housing we interact with the permanent secretary, director of urban development and director of planning,” Masunda said. “The minister should not descend into the arena concerning the micro issues of the council. Nyanhongo used to be a councillor. He could well be one of the beneficiaries. I don’t know.”
However, the mayor was reluctant to discuss whether Chombo’s counterattacks on council resolutions were acts of sabotage.
Masunda said: “We are very clear on what we are doing. It is for the long-term interest of the city. Chombo, as a person who is in charge of local government, should be an integral part.”
“The unfortunate thing in our country is that people have tended to mix up service delivery and politics.
There is no political will to enforce the city by-laws. In our quest to restore sanity we have to be mindful of the human side of the equation. That justice is not only done but is seen to be done,” said Masunda.
He said there is a list of people owning the stalls from the department of housing and community services which the councillors were still analysing.
Masunda said: “I have advised the councillors that the time has come and gone for you to make general allegations. I told them to go through the printout and produce the names of the individuals who have had the tables or stalls allocated to them for reasons that are not clearly indicated.
“It emerged those special interest councillors, Kizito Kuchekwa and Lisbon Marufu, appointed by Minister Chombo, are some of the beneficiaries who do not qualify for allocation of a market stall.”