BY BRIAN CHITEMBA
CHAOS continues to reign at Harare city council, where top officials who are reportedly wanted by law enforcement agencies are back at work, while others with pending court cases are resisting to vacate offices.
Harare provincial development coordinator (PDC) Tafadzwa Muguti, in a circular, issued a directive that council officials with pending court cases are not supposed to report for work until cleared by the courts.
Council director of Works Isaiah Chawatama evaded arrest in January on allegations of criminal abuse of office, but later applied for leave for the month of February 2021.
He was involved in a high-speed chase with the police and the Special Anti-Corruption Unit in the Office of the President and Cabinet (Sacu).
A “concerned council employee” at Town House this week wrote a petition to Sacu raising a red flag over several issues stalking Chawatama.
Chief among the contentious matters include the Chawatama case in which he is accused of resisting to relinquish the post of acting Town Clerk when he was given the reins for only three days by the then acting Town Clerk Prosper Chonzi.
The council worker also questioned why Chawatama was walking scott-free yet his home address is known, while he is also reporting for duty at Cleveland House — a stone’s throw away from Town House.
Contacted for comment, police national spokesperson Paul Nyathi referred questions to Sacu.
Tabani Mpofu, the Sacu chairperson, could not immediately comment, as his mobile phone went unanswered several times.
“The director of Works (Chawatama) has been hiding from police since February 2021, after which he took leave, but the forms were not signed, meaning he could have been on absence without official leave (Awol). His leave forms were signed for the month of March and is supposed to report back for duty on April 1, but he is already back in office,” part of the petition reads.
“On March 22, 2021, Chawatama sneaked into his office and signed several council documents. He is purportedly on leave, but is reporting for duty. He is said to be on the run, but his whereabouts are known.”
Chawatama is said to be on the police/Sacu wanted list for appointing himself Town Clerk in January 2020.
His leave forms were submitted and filed at the Town Clerk’s office.
Chawatama reported for duty on March 22 while he was still on leave and signed a memorandum. He also reportedly held meetings with acting mayor Stewart Mutizwa and council chief security officer Colleen Tongowona. Repeated efforts to get a comment from Chawatama were futile, as his mobile phone went unanswered several times.
Tongowona, who is on ZW$20 000 (US$238) bail, is also reporting for duty, but he was on paid leave after being arrested on allegations of allowing a land developer to work on an unserviced stand in Marlborough without a compliance certificate from the council.
The land in question is governed by council’s housing pay scheme constitution approved by the education, health, housing and community services and licensing committee minutes of October 29, 2018.
Tongowona allegedly refused to be served with the letter sending him on paid leave by human resources personnel.
“All attempts were in vain as he threatened arrest on whoever dared to serve him with the letter despite other council officials who are on bail heeding the directive that they should not report for duty. He vowed he would not go on paid leave,” a council official, who preferred not to be named for professional reasons, said.
“Since March 1, 2021, he is still going to work in direct violation of Provincial Development Coordinator (PDC) circular, which he is enforcing on other employees. Tongowona was sent on leave by Town Clerk Hosiah Chisango as a matter of policy regarding all employees with matters before the courts.”
Council’s human capital director Cainos Chingombe, who was arrested in December 2020 for alleged criminal abuse of office, is also reportedly back at work.
Chingombe is said to have also refused to be served with a letter sending him on leave on March 20, but two days later requested for the letter which he never signed. On March 23, Chingombe reported for duty despite a PDC directive.
Acting Mayor Mutizwa was not available for comment on the council issues.
There have been suspensions and counter-suspensions as the fight to control the city turns nasty. Several high-ranking officials, including Chisango, have been arrested over alleged illegal land sales.