By Vusumuzi Dube
Fired Bulawayo deputy mayor, Mr Gift Banda, has come out guns blazing insisting that he was not formally dismissed by the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing.
He has also questioned the findings of the independent tribunal which made the recommendation to relieve him of his duties.
Mr Banda, whose expulsion and that of another councillor, Reuben Matengu, was confirmed by the Local Government Ministry’s permanent secretary, Engineer George Mlilo, on Monday, yesterday held a press conference at the MDC-T Bulawayo provincial offices where he castigated both Eng Mlilo for announcing his expulsion in the Press and the tribunal led by Advocate Hilda Moyo for their final recommendations.
He said as far as he was concerned he was still on suspension until such a time that the Ministry follows the proper channels to inform them.
“Right now all I can confirm is that Reuben Matengu and I have received the determination of the Independent Tribunal but the Ministry has not communicated with us. I only saw Eng Mlilo confirming that we have been fired in The Chronicle but nothing has been formally said to us. Until such a time that they communicate with us we still consider ourselves suspended.
“As we have always insisted, the allegations against myself and other councillors were motivated by malice and bad faith and were a brazen and a malicious attack on my character and person as it was not based on any facts but was a result of rumours, speculation, petty jealousies and political rivalry,” said Mr Banda.
On the charge which he was found guilty of (using his position to acquire the lease of a stand in Hume Park) Mr Banda alleged that the local authority had actually denied the application hence no papers were processed nor was the lease handed over to him.
“The said application for the lease was denied by the city council on May 14, 2014. There was never a lease for this property. It is apparent that the charge and finding by the Independent Tribunal are offside. We deliberately allowed the charge to stand to expose the malice and vindictiveness.
“As for the Ascot property, it was acquired procedurally and substantively above board. We have always said so as a party. I have always said so as an individual, the city of Bulawayo has always said so and the Independent Tribunal has confirmed that position, I am accordingly vindicated,” said the former deputy mayor.
According to the Independent Tribunal report on the Hume Park stand, it was found that Mr Banda used his influence to get the lease where he signed the application for the stand on behalf of Entertainment Headquarters where he was a principal and prominent artist, Simon Mambazo Phiri also co-signed as a director and project leader.
“The position of deputy mayor is a very highly esteemed office. A person who holds such office is required and expected to conduct his or her affairs with absolute if not impeccable dignity and integrity. Banda’s duties as councillor and deputy mayor were to serve the interests of council and the ratepayers.
“He had already been allocated a large piece of land in Ascot where he intended to develop a town house complex. He then applied for a lease under the guise of Entertainment Headquarters in order to further his business interest,” read part of the findings.
However, according to a letter provided by Mr Banda from the local authority’s director of engineering services, Engineer Simela Dube dated May 14, 2014 (reference number: TP 6,5 S/Park), council turned down the application for the Hume Park stand for the construction of a social club noting that there was no land available in the area.
“The above mentioned lease and road proposal take up virtually all the developed land within the Hume Park leaving the most sensitive wet land along Matsheumhlope River. In light of the above council cannot avail the piece of land in question to accommodate the proposed development as there is no land available,” reads part of the letter.
Contacted for comment on the recent developments, Eng Mlilo said he was not privy to the information and had to consult the Tribunal and the Bulawayo City Council. The Chronicle