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Hopewell Chin’ono: You need more than courage to fix Harare City Council’s malaise

By Hopewell Chin’ono

The MDC’s natural electoral terrain is in urban areas where they have run city councils since the first election they participated in 2000.

Evan Mawarire running for council
Evan Mawarire running for council

Nelson Chamisa has a huge challenge on his hands. He either allows the dead wood in his party to run again as Council candidates or he replaces them with competent, viable and electable candidates.

Harare City Council has been the worst of all MDC-T councils. MDC-T fielded thoroughly incompetent and in many cases unschooled candidates who won on the basis of the party jacket they wore.

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Their election was based solely on party political loyalties not on good governance abilities.

Now that Evan Mawarire, Duduzile Moyo Nyirongo, Henry Munangitire and their team at People’s Own Voice (Povo) have put together a group of competent candidates, Harare residents might finally have a decent selection of candidates to chose from for Council.

ZANUPF has always fielded candidates in urban elections as an obligation divorced from Bible fulfilment. They don’t expect to get much from urban Council elections as their social base is mainly in rural areas.

So Chamisa’s MDCAlliance needs to break with the past and snap from the old template of fielding incompetent “war veterans” of their struggle at the expense of young and competent Hararians.

The MDCT Council was not only packed with clueless Councillors, it was made up of Councillors who were terribly corrupt and who worked hand in glove with Ignatius Chombo to steal Harare City Council land.

The deals involved buccaneer business people like Philip Chiyangwa and other powerful political players. Prominent lawyers had land dished out to them like confetti by Ignatius Chombo.

Harare City Council lost more land to political thieves between 2000 and 2017 than it lost in a century. Land that was donated to the council by wealthy well wishers was looted under the MDCT Council’s watch.

Chombo simply paid them bribes and they turned the other way. When MDCT Councillor Warship Dumba tried to fight the land looting orgy, he was kicked out of Council.

When the issue was taken to Robert Mugabe, Chombo claimed that Dumba was sleeping with his then wife, hence what he called a witch hunt. It was all smoke and mirrors of course.

Chombo had captured the unqualified Councillors creating a bedrock of rot at town house.

So without fielding decent Councillors especially in Harare’s northern suburbs, the MDC Alliance will suffer at the hands of the Coalition for Independent Candidates and also ZANU PF because it will retain its core social base.

The coalition of independents will be fishing from MDC waters so it won’t be an easy road, it will require Wamba Dia Wamba to wear leadership lenses in order to save his alliance from losing the councils.

The City of Harare has chronic problems such as lack of clean running water, potholed roads, terrible sewage system, an unreliable bin service, a broken health delivery system, a corrupt bureaucracy and many more inadequacies.

The current Harare Mayor Ben Manyenyeni told me 4 weeks ago that he is saddled with Councillors who can’t even read a balance sheet.

It won’t take much to convince the discerning and decent voter to chose elsewhere if the MDC Alliance fails to offer decent candidate alternatives.

This is one election where we are going to see tactical voting, people voting for a President from party A, MP from party B and Councillor from party C.

Voters deal and chose from what they are given, if the parties want results, they must provide competent and qualified candidates for Council.

The current crop of Councillors from the Morgan Tsvangirai era were mainly chosen to represent the MDC-T on one basis, courage to fight back against ZANU PF thuggery.

Nelson Chamisa should break away from using that qualification alone, you need more than courage to fix Harare City Council’s malaise.

So as Evan Mawarire and his friends launch their independents coalition on Thursday, the message being send out comes straight out of Lippmann’s handbook.

It is altogether unthinkable that a country like ours should remain forever dependent on untrained and accidental Councillors — the better course is to send out into Council a generation of Councillors who will, by sheer superiority, drive the incompetents out of town house.

Hopewell Chin’ono is an award winning Zimbabwean journalist and documentary filmmaker. He is a CNN African journalist of the year and Harvard University Nieman Fellow.

His next film, State of Mind looking at mental illness in Zimbabwe is coming out in March. He can be contacted on [email protected] or on twitter @daddyhope