MUTARE – Residents in this eastern border city are pointing fingers at immoral municipal police officers and meter readers who are demanding sexual favours from female tenants who fail to honour their dues in exchange of non-enforcement of by-laws.
The allegations first came to light during a recent informal sector governance workshop hosted in the city by Transparency International Zimbabwe (TIZ), a corruption watchdog.
Ironically, TIZ’s parent organisation, Transparency International ranked Zimbabwe the 12th most corrupt country in the world, and the 11th in Africa.
The moral decadence now pervades council employees, if recent reports are anything to go by.
Participants at the TIZ workshop revealed that female tenants residing in council-owned houses in Sakubva’s Maonde, Singles and Muchena suburbs were often being pressured to give in to sexual demands to avoid being evicted.
“Many of these women are failing to pay their rentals so when council officials come to demand payment or take drastic action against them, most of these women fail to pay and are then asked to pay a bribe of $5 or given in to sexual favours for them to be able to remain in their houses,” said one participant, who preferred anonymity.
The participant said in most cases, some women would give in to avoid embarrassment.
A former councillor in the suburb, Knowledge Nyamhoka, said the practice had been going on for years.
“This has been a problem, which has been brought about by the violation of council by-laws because due process is not being followed in pursuing rentals hence allowing these sexual predators to blackmail powerless women into giving in to their sick demands,” he said, arguing that council was no longer issuing written warnings and letters of demand.
Nyamhoka said council should also be amenable to the plight of residents who are finding the going tough in view of the worsening economic situation.
He said being too strict with the struggling tenants and residents in general was making them more vulnerable to corrupt council employees.
The city’s town clerk, Joshua Maligwa, confirmed the development, citing council police officers and meter readers as the possible culprits, who would seek such favours in exchange for non-enforcement of by-laws.
“I’ve heard about this and was keen on finding out from the department of housing. This is something I cannot rule out. Council police and meter readers are prone to do it,” he said.
“During my time with Rusape Town Council, our police would demand sexual favours from female vendors,” Maligwa added, before instructing acting housing director Catherine Nyamangodo to probe the allegations.
Nyamangodo also said she could not rule out the allegations, saying council police responsible for following up on defaulting tenants had over-stayed.
“We have recently changed them but not because of these allegations, but they had certainly over stayed as they had about three years on the same post,” she said.
Maligwa said residents must continue reporting such incidents to council so that it puts an end to the rot.
“ . . . we do not condone such behaviour and they are better off dealing with council directly,” he said.
Maligwa and Nyamangodo said tenants should approach council even if they do not have enough money, as paying bribes would not reduce their growing debts to council. Daily News