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Luke-ing the Beast in the Eye: Deranged Mamvura’s bus runs over councils

...... as nation braces for the Big Sanity Return ( BSR ) in 2023

Earlier in the week on Tuesday, we buried Alex Tawanda Magaisa in the serene environs of Njanja in Mashonaland East province. I told mourners at Magaisa’s memorial at Eastend Hall at the Showgrounds in Harare on Sunday that for me, the best ever Big Saturday Read Magaisa ever penned was the one titled “When Mamvura drove the bus.”

In that instalment, Magaisa wrote about how a mad man at Sadza Growth once drove a bus while the driver had stopped over for recess. At least the Mamvura in Magaisa’s story had had the decency to stop the bus before anything unbecoming had happened. Magaisa ended his piece by saying one day, a mad Mamvura could drive the bus called Zimbabwe.

I told the mourners on Sunday that true to Magaisa’s prediction in his piece several years ago, mad Mamvura has indeed taken over the wheel of this bus called Zimbabwe. Since Mamvura is a Shona name that denotes water or something aquatic or aquarian, the crocodile, or Ngwena, could qualify to be our Mamvura, both literally and metaphorically. Indeed, Ngwena, an aquatic mammal, could qualify in every respect to be our deranged Mamvura.

I told the mourners in my eulogy that while Magaisa’s Mamvura had had the decency, even in his madness, to stop the bus, our own Mamvura was not stopping at anything. Our own Mamvura’s bus ran over six people on 1 August 2018 and our deranged driver has added Nyasha Zhambe, Mboneni Ncube and Moreblessing Ali to the monumental human carnage in his wake.

Some two weeks ago, I wrote about the regime is inching to reclaim control of the urban councils, where they have been utterly rejected by voters for the past 22 years. The campaign to demonise and scandalise elected representatives has intensified in the last few days, particularly in the capital, Harare.

The signs are that it is definitely not going to be a civilised charm offensive to lure voters or potential passengers into Mamvura’s bus. It is going to be a brutal scorched earth enterprise against elected local authorities.

Mad Mamvura’s bus is seeking to trammel urban local authorities under the warped logic that he wants to destroy them in order to build them. How a madman would achieve that is everyone’s wonder.

We are now cocksure that hidden under the agenda to reclaim urban local authorities is a sinister motive to loot and plunder, as evidenced by Pomonagate and the fire tenders scam.

As mad Mamvura revs up the bus engine to tramnel elected local authorities, it is very clear the deranged man is going for the jugular. As Zanu PF intensifies its dirty, vile and hate campaign against the elected mayor of Harare and his councillors, I republish, in the public interest, snippets of the tale of horror the regime is inflicting on opposition-controlled cities and towns as told to us by the elected representatives themselves.

Our Mad Mamvura wants to run over our cities with his ramshackle bus. Unlike the Mamvura at Sadza growth point whose madness was tinged with honour and decency, our Mamvura is stark raving mad, a madman without honour whose bus will run over anything in sight.

Mamvura’s *bus : The carnage in urban local authorities

There has been a flurry of spirited talk and blame games especially around the demolitions of people’s homes in Budiriro and other suburbs in Harare. In December 2020 , while addressing a gathering in his home area of Chivi, Emmerson Mnangagwa said opposition -run councils had failed to run the affairs of the people in the respective municipalities. He pointedly hinted at a systematic blitzkrieg to reverse our dominance in urban areas, which strategy is already in full-swing given the clampdown on our mayors and the contrived recalls of our elected councillors.

True, our councils may have their own shortcomings which the party leadership sought to address when President Advocate Nelson Chamisa on 28 February 2020 hosted a Mayors’ Forum in Harare for all our elected local authorities in the country.

It emerged at that workshop that while the people had elected their councillors to run their affairs in their local areas and despite clear provisions in the Constitution that only elected councillors run local government, the Zanu PF-run central government has usurped all municipal powers and is at the centre of the mischief and lack of prudent service delivery in all local authorities across the country.

It emerged from that workshop that elected councils cannot even buy a pen without the authority of central government. They cannot even buy water chemicals on their own to treat water for the residents they serve in their respective local authorities because the required foreign currency can only be provided by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe while all procurement of the respective chemicals is done by the State Procurement Board, housed in the President’s Office.

The residents and the citizens of this country are unaware that notwithstanding clear provisions in the law and in the Constitution empowering elected councillors to run councils, the Zanu PF-run central government is effectively in charge.

Today, as part of my citizen responsibility to impart information to fellow citizens on the challenges facing our councils, I reproduce snippets of the piece I wrote after accompanying President Chamisa to the Mayors’ Forum held in February 2020 in which the leaders of all opposition-run councils chronicled how Zanu PF had systemically usurped their powers and how this heinous move has severely hampered service delivery in the respective local authorities:

On Friday, 28 February 2020, the people’s President Advocate Nelson Chamisa hosted a Mayors’ Forum where the party’s elected local government leadership from across the country chronicled their successes and challenges in delivering prudent services to the people. The forum was part of the new culture of performance management in the MDC Alliance aimed at ensuring our councils perform effectively in delivering the services for which they were elected.

It emerged from the meeting that the opposition-led local authorities had done wonders amid gross interference by central government, which intervenes even on trite issues that should ordinarily be under the purview of elected people’s representatives.

It must be stated from the outset that chapter 14 of the national Constitution explicitly states that there must be devolution of governmental powers and responsibilities to provincial, metropolitan councils and local authorities. The Constitution is clear that only elected representatives must manage affairs at local government level.

The government has however paid lip-service to the devolution principle, with central government arrogating upon itself all local government authority and usurping the powers of the elected representatives of the people in the lower tiers.

Section 274 of the national Constitution specifically states that only elected urban local authorities must manage the affairs of the people and that only elected councillors must administer the government at local level.Section 276 states that a local authority has the right to govern, on its own initiative, the local affairs of the people within the area for which it was established and “ has all the powers necessary to do so .”

The eight-hour robust engagement in February 2020 exposed that central government was grossly interfering in the administration of local government and was behind all the challenges facing the people.

Six main challenges emerged from that meeting. A bus has six wheels and each of the six abrogations listed below is a graphic illustration of how Mamvura’s bus has trampled on councils, particularly urban local authorities:

Bus wheel number 1. Elected policy-makers shut out of all procurement

All procurement has now been centralized and local authorities do not have powers to procure water chemicals and guarantee delivery of clean water to the people. Procurement, even of a simple pen or even any other minute gadget, is now being done by a central procurement authority under the Office of the President.

This means that the elected people’s representatives can no longer execute their mandate, in brazen violation of the Constitution. Prudent service delivery has been grossly affected because of bureaucratic drudgery and deliberate central government delays especially in the procurement of essential commodities such as water chemicals so as to sabotage the mainly opposition-run authorities in charge at local government level.

Bus wheel number 2. Gross government interference in staffing

Councils do not even have powers to recruit their own staff in furtherance of their own plans and programmes on which they would have consulted residents.

Despite there being directors of Human Resources in the various councils, there have been myriad directives from the Minister of Local Government that are meant to usurp the recruitment of staff from the respective elected local authority.

Added to this, the Local Government Board that should oversee the recruitment of senior technical council officials is not even in place. Most councils have been suspended and victimized for taking action against corrupt Town Clerks, most of whom are sentries of ZANU PF interests in the various towns and local authorities. Chitungwiza and Gweru municipal authorities are pertinent examples in this respect.

Bus wheel number 3. Incessant power outages

The power outages caused by the chronic shortages of foreign currency in the country and for which the clueless and illegitimate government is solely responsible, have caused massive anxiety in local authorities.

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The power shortages have not only meant shortage of power for domestic and industrial use but have made it impossible to pump water and sewage, further endangering the lives of residents in the various towns and cities.

Bus wheel number 4. Anomalies and favoritism in disbursement of devolution funds

Central government has paid lip-service to the principle of devolution encapsulated in the national Constitution. Even though government has purported to be distributing devolution funds, there have been serious anomalies in the amounts disbursed to the respective local authorities.

The unfair disbursements have seen larger local authorities run by the MDC receiving less funds while smaller councils dominated by ZANU PF councillors have been awarded huge amounts. For example, the bigger local authority of Zvishavane has received less funds than the smaller Runde Rural District Council, pointing to skewed disbursement of devolution funds.

The opposition-run Rusape council has also received less money than the surrounding smaller rural district councils that are ZANU PF-controlled.

To make the situation murkier, the provincial councils envisaged under the devolution principle that is encapsulated in chapter 14 of the Constitution are still to be set up, nine years after 93 percent of Zimbabweans overwhelmingly endorsed the new Constitution in a referendum.

Instead of ensuring that provincial councils are in place as dictated by the Constitution, Zanu PF has in their place foisted Ministers of Provincial Affairs, even in provinces where they were strenuously rejected by the people such as Harare and Bulawayo.

These are the same devolution funds the regime has witheld and ordered the councils to buy fire-tenders from an ED-linked oligarch without going to tender and without consulting residents.

Much like someone who owes you money telling you that that they are not giving you back the money but have instead bought packs of baby pampers, never mind the fact that you do not need them and that you might not have the babies in the first place’

Bus wheel number 5. Government still to approve council budgets

In order to cripple the opposition-run councils, central government delays the approval of the budgets of most urban local authorities, which are approved by the Minister of Local Government.

Harare is a case in point, where service delivery has been seriously hampered by central government’s deliberate ploy to delay the approval of the council’s budget, which has made it impossible for the capital city to charge competitive tariffs that enable council to deliver prudent services to the residents.

Ironically, in the case of Harare, Local Government Minister July Moyo late February 2020 wrote a memorandum urging the municipality to urgently pay its debt to Chemplex Holdings, a Zanu PF-linked company involved in the procurement of water chemicals.

July Moyo conveniently chose to forget that Harare was failing to service many of its debts apart from the one owed to Chemplex on the grounds that it was Moyo himself who was still to approve the city’s budget for 2020, thereby grossly impeding council from servicing its debts and delivering prudent services to ratepayers.

Since 2013, Harare and other cities have been in financial doldrums owing to ZANU PF’s populist announcements towards every election cancelling all debts owed to councils, including those owed by government, the biggest debtor to most urban local authorities.

This has incentivized non-payment of rates as residents and corporate consumers now have a legitimate expectation that their debts will be written off on the eve of every election.

Bus wheel number 6. ZANU PF-linked land barons parceling land to themselves

Most urban local authorities have been fleeced of their land by ZANU PF-linked land barons. Harare, Chitungwiza, Rusape and other local authorities have had most of their land taken away by bigwigs linked to the party (mis)running central government.

The mayors and council chairpersons told President Chamisa that most of their land had been parceled out to well-heeled ZANU PF cronies. ( The current demolitions in Budiriro and other areas in Harare are linked to this ploy by central government to hand over land to Zanu PF land barons)

Keeping the head above Mamvura’s waters

Despite the six main challenges chronicled above, most opposition-run local authorities have made sterling progress to ensure that some modicum of normal service is delivered to the residents, albeit under very difficult circumstances.

Most councils have signed twinning arrangements with other cities outside the country; they have installed solar-powered street lights as is the case with Norton and some have bought refuse trucks even amid gross interference by central government.

President Chamisa told these mayors and council chairpersons of local authorities in February 2020 that they owed their mandate to the people who elected them and not to anyone else. Notwithstanding the challenges, he urged them to continue holding feedback meetings with the residents and to continue delivering services.

At the end of the day, said President Chamisa to the Mayors’ Forum, it is the people who are sovereign. In spite of the hardships, councils must strive to deliver prudent services to the people who elected them.

Since that inaugural workshop held in February 2020, the regime has intensified its onslaught in the various local authorities across the country, particularly in Harare where two mayors have been suspended on trumped-up charges of corruption.

It was evident during that inaugural Mayors’ Forum I attended that it is an understatement to say that the illegitimate Zanu PF regime is throwing spanners in the works to disable local authorities from arguing out their mandate. Yes, they are not throwing just spanners to disable the people’s councils from working. ZANU PF is instead throwing the whole tools box into the works!

Conclusion — The Big Sanity Return

When a relative becomes mentally challenged, as our Mamvura has done, all one can wish for is a Big Sanity Return (BSR). But there are times when even that becomes a tough call. If the driver has really gone bonkers, the Big Sanity Return (BSR) can only be achieved by changing the bus driver, the man ensconced in the driver’s cabin.

It is clear councils and their elected representatives have become a prime target for Mamvura and his bus.

I reiterate my submission at Magaisa’s memorial that come 2023, the citizens of this country are determined to stop Mamvura and to reclaim their bus called Zimbabwe. And as I have said before, in both form and substance, the citizens, homogenous as they are, remain a structure.

They are not a secret society. What has not been properly understood is that because our Mamvura is stark raving mad , one needs to be tactical and unconventional. You don’t deal with a mentally challenged person in the normal way you would deal with a sane person.

When dealing with Mamvura, particularly our type, one needs to be creative and innovative. As George Orwell’s Squealer in Animal Farm would say, ” Tactics , Comrades , Tactics .”

The citizens of this country are not a secret society. They are a public entity and their agenda is public. As evidenced by their recent voting pattern, they are determined to stop Mamvura and reclaim their bus. The problem with those hiding in secret hovels is that by dint of their secret hideout, they tend to see secrecy everywhere, even in public spheres.

Come 2023, the citizens will stop Mamvura and instal Mukomana in the driver’s cabin. That will mark the Big Sanity Return (BSR) in the cabin of our bus, a cabin currently ravaged by unparalleled derangement.

The BSR, the Big Sanity Return in the main cabin of the national bus, is the only befitting tribute we can give to Alex Tawanda Magaisa.

Rest in ink, Musaigwa.

Luke Tamborinyoka, a citizen from Domboshava, is an award – winning journalist and an ardent political scientist. Tamborinyoka is also a change champion in the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC ). You can interact with him on his Facebook page or on the twitter handle @ luke_tambo.