…Move ‘a ploy to seize MDC strongholds’

The MDC-T is resisting Local Government minister Ignatius Chombo’s decision to amalgamate representative bodies of rural and urban councils as it sees the move as a Zanu PF ploy to penetrate and dominate urban councils, which have been opposition strongholds since 2000.

There are currently two representative bodies namely Urban Councils Association of Zimbabwe (Ucaz) and the Association of Rural District Councils of Zimbabwe (ARDCZ) which Chombo said should be merged by June into a unified body to be called Zimbabwe Local Government Association (Zilga).

Chombo first announced the plans for the merger in February and threatened to stop recognising Ucaz and ARDCZ if they resisted his intentions, which he said were in line with international best practice. This prompted the local authorities to meet last week in Beitbridge where they agreed on a 14-member interim executive led by Bulawayo mayor Martin Moyo from MDC-T.

However, the MDC-T is opposed to the move as it believes Chombo and his Zanu PF party are using this as a ruse to penetrate and dominate urban councils — opposition strongholds since the 2000 elections. Senior party officials told the Zimbabwe Independent that party president Morgan Tsvangirai held a meeting with MDC-T aligned mayors in Bulawayo on Tuesday, where they resolved to oppose the planned merger.

“We resolved to oppose Chombo’s plans to amalgamate the two representative bodies for local authorities because doing so would be tantamount to handing over complete control to Zanu PF even in urban areas where our party is in control,” said a party official who attended the meeting.

“These people are already preparing the ground to rig the 2018 elections by diluting our control of urban areas. They actually want to clear the way to accommodate more and more people into urban areas who have been illegally allocated land in the peri-urban zones and it will be easier to achieve those objectives when they have dominance in the merged representative body.”

On Wednesday, MDC-T spokesperson Obert Gutu told this paper that there is “completely no logic in the decision to amalgamate rural and urban councils. It is apparent that Chombo is being driven by sinister motives in pushing this agenda.

“This is a man with a sordid reputation of campaigning to unprofessionally interfere with the running of local authorities in the country. The MDC will never, ever allow Chombo to push through resolutions that are not in sync with popular sentiment, and which will stifle the people of Zimbabwe’s democratic space.”
Gutu said his party would not stand by and watch as “Chombo and his gang” continue to decimate local authorities for their “own selfish and corrupt ends”. — Staff Writer.