By Admire Mutize.
The governance crisis bedevilling the beleaguered Chitungwiza Municipality plunged to new depths on Thursday last week when the High court declared the three-member Madzudzo Pawadyira chaired caretaker commission that has been running the affairs of Chitungwiza municipality since May 2017 illegal. The shock development was announced by the Chitungwiza and Manyame Residents Association (CAMERA) through its social media handles yesterday.
The 3-member commission was appointed by the then Minister of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing, Saviour Kasukuwere, after the suspension of the town’s 25 elected councillors including the Mayor and deputy in April last year.
The ruling effectively means that the thirteen out of 25 councillors who were acquitted of corruption charges will be reinstated as Councillors to reconstitute the Chitungwiza Town Council with less than 3 months of their term remaining.
This ruling came after the Chitungwiza and Manyame Rural Residents Association (CAMERA) through the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) filed an urgent chamber application under case number HC2605/18 for a declaratory order and interdict on the 21st of March 2018 and cited Chitungwiza municipality, the Minister of Local Government, Madzudzo Pawadyira, Zivanai Chisango and Joshua Mabhiza as respondents.
Pawadyira, Chisango and Mabhiza are the 3 members of the now illegal commission.
On the 22nd of March 2018, the Harare High Court judge Justice Jester Charehwa ruled that the term of office of the caretaker commission expired 90 days after its appointment and that its legal tenure could not be lawfully extended in terms of the Urban Councils Act. The municipality was ordered to terminate the office of the caretaker commission and reinstate all acquitted councillors. 13 out of the 25 suspended councillors have been acquitted so far.
CAMERA argued in its application that the term of office of the commission had long expired while it continued to operate contrary to section 80 of the Urban Councils Act and this had adversely affected the state of service delivery as well as citizen participation in the affairs of Chitungwiza.
The local authority as the first respondent together with the other four respondents did not oppose the application by Chitungwiza residents but consented to the illegality of the commission. CAMERA is proceeding to demand that the commission reimburses the municipality all the financial and material benefits that it accrued after the lapse of its 90 days term of office and that all the decisions made by the commission after the expiry of its tenure are rendered null and void.
Long-suffering Chitungwiza residents will wait with baited breath to see if the returning councillors will deliver in three months what they failed to achieve in four years.