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Acting Harare mayor gone rogue: MDC

By Gift Phiri

Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC has blasted acting Harare mayor Chris Mbanga for barring suspended town clerk James Mushore from Town House, saying he has gone rogue.

Chris Mbanga (L) and Morgan Komichi (R) are pictured at the verification room at a Harare hotel May 1, 2008 (AFP/File, Alexander Joe)
Chris Mbanga (L) and Morgan Komichi (R) are pictured at the verification room at a Harare hotel May 1, 2008 (AFP/File, Alexander Joe)

Deputy Harare mayor Mbanga took over as acting mayor this week after mayor Bernard Manyenyeni was suspended on Monday by government, which accused him of improper conduct and insubordination for appointing a new town clerk despite government objections.

Government had argued that the appointment Mushore had not been approved by the Local Government Board (LGB).

Mushore was fired the same day he was appointed last month.

Following the decision of the MDC-run Harare City Council to appoint Mushore to the post of town clerk, Local Government minister Savior Kasukuwere, in almost unseemly haste, had a letter delivered to the council stating that he was rescinding the decision of council.

But MDC secretary for Local Government Eddie Cross argued that government no longer has any authority to make such a ruling, which he said is completely ultra vires the new Constitution and therefore null and void in legal terms.

Manyenyeni then duly acted on the edict of his MDC party, resulting in the fatal action by government.

Kasukuwere reportedly called in the deputy mayor Mbanga this week and advised him that he was now the acting Harare mayor after suspending Manyenyeni.

As the MDC lodged an urgent chamber application in the High Court yesterday to rescind the decision to fire Manyenyeni, Mbanga was stopping Mushore from reporting for duty at Town House.

Mbanga insisted Mushore, a former NMBZ Holdings group chief executive officer, was barred from work until his matter was finalised.

This comes as the MDC argued in an urgent chamber application lodged in the High Court that a mayor could only be dethroned by an independent tribunal established by Parliament in terms of the law, and insisting Kasukuwere’s action was ultra vires the new Constitution adopted in 2013.

The MDC has not responded to inquiries why due process was not followed in the appointment of Mushore in the first place, or why the LGB was not informed as the law dictates.

Government said the mayor was suspended pending investigations and further disciplinary action.

“You will be brought before a competent authority to answer the allegations above,” Kasukuwere said in the letter to the mayor.

Manyenyeni, who won the Harare mayorship on an opposition MDC party ticket in 2013, has said he is “at peace” with his suspension.

Observers said by appointing an acting mayor, it seemed council had accepted the “suspension” of Manyenyeni.

They said it was also curious that Mbanga seemed to happily accept and step in to fill the breach left by the unlawful suspension of his boss.

And his party, meanwhile, is fighting the mayor’s suspension in court, arguing that in the absence of the parliamentary tribunal, government’s action was null and void.

But Mbanga happily assumed the post of acting mayor granted to him by Kasukuwere and even barred the new town clerk from doing his job.

MDC spokesperson Obert Gutu said he was engaging his party’s shadow minister of Local Government, Jameson Timba, over the contentious matter.

“But my gut reaction is that, with due respect to … Mbanga, he might be falling victim to Kasukuwere’s divide and rule tactic at Town House,” Gutu said.

“The bottom line is that is that … Manyenyeni did absolutely nothing wrong in handling the appointment of … Mushore as town clerk and indeed, our position as a party will very soon be vindicated by the courts of law.’’

University of Kent law professor and former MDC presidential advisor Alex Magaisa said Mbanga’s action raised several questions.

“Who is Mbanga and whose interests is he representing?” Magaisa asked rhetorically.

“Is his position consistent with the party’s position? Is it not evident that his conduct undermines the mayor? Is it not evident that this is the same old, tried and tested divide and rule strategy at work? On what basis does he take an order from the minister that he is now the acting mayor?

“But then we have to ask also: where is Mbanga getting the audacity to do what is patently unreasonable and against the principled position which the party or any of its councillors should take? Does he have powerful backers within the party who are advising him that it’s okay or has he simply gone rogue?”

He queried whether the MDC did any due diligence on Mbanga — who was Tsvangirai’s chief election agent in the 2013 presidential polls — before they nominated him to be deputy mayor

“Too many questions but I think here the party, the MDC, has a serious problem on its hands,” Magaisa said.

“Kasukuwere, Zanu PF’s political commissar is simply using a gift at his disposal — who wouldn’t? I’m afraid the MDC has to look very seriously at itself here. Something does not smell very well here. Something smells very rotten.” Daily News