Councilors in Mutare are ear-marked to benefit from industrial stands, thanks to a directive by Local Government Minister Ignatius Chombo.
City officials say this golden handshake is above board.
However, Mutare residents who spoke with VOA Studio 7 said they are bitter that commercial land will be gifted city councilors who they feel are largely ‘ineffective’.
David Mutambirwa of the Mutare Residents and Ratepayers Association and a representative on the board of Mutare residents said this kind of directive from Minister Chombo actually works against the city's development.
Mutare resident Sekesai Gwenzi said she is bitter that the councilors continue to benefit at the expense of average city residents.
She said this gift of commercial property is not the first of its kind. She claimed that councilors were given residential stands at a 40 percent discount of their values in high, medium and low density areas, and accused some of selling the stands without developing them, which violates the terms that other buyers are required to meet.
Speaking in defense of the move, Acting Mutare Mayor George Jerison said councils are entitled to certain perks.
He added that the minister directed that councilors benefit from the stands, but must pay the current value.
The acting mayor said all councilors, including special interest councilors, may benefit from Chombo’s directive, adding that the stands will have to be developed and may not be resold to a third party.
Lawyer and special interest councilor Misheck Mugadza said he was not in a position to comment on the developments, referring questions to Mutare Town Clerk, Obert Muzawazi.
Mr. Muzwazi, speaking with VOA Studio 7 by phone from Harare, also said that the councilors would benefit from the minister’s directive but will need to pay in full the value of the stands.
He also cautioned that while councilors may recommend that such stands be awarded to them, the minister will have to approve the recommendation first.
Former Mutare councilor and deputy mayor, Itai Masaka, confirmed this, saying that according to the Urban Councils’ Act, sitting councilors are entitled to allowances, including residential and commercial stands, but on certain conditions.
The former councilor, who is now running his own business, said council would need to pass a recommendation that would then go to Mr. Chombo for authorization.
Mutare lawyer Blessing Nyamaropa, who works with the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, said councilors may get perks only if there is an approval from the minister of their parent ministry.
The lawyer said only after such a go ahead is given may councilors expect to reap any rewards that might stem from their recommendations.