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Zimbabwe's MDC-Led Local Governments Fend Off ZANU-PF Influence

Open conflict has broken out between the city council in Mutare, Zimbabwe, and Local Government Minister Ignatius Chombo over his appointment of three representatives to the council - all of them affiliated with his former ruling ZANU-PF party whereas all 19 elected members are from the majority Movement for Democratic Change.

All 19 MDC councilors walked out in protest on Tuesday as Town Clerk Obert Muzavazi was about to seat the representatives, Mutare political sources said.

Chombo called Mutare Mayor Brian James earlier this week and ordered him to seat the so-called special representatives, threatening to remove him if he refused.

Typically such special representatives are drawn from groups like the handicapped to reflect their concerns, but these appointments, like many made by the central government these days, are seen as an attempt to maintain ZANU-PF influence following the MDC sweep of nearly all local government bodies in the March 29 round of elections.

After the MDC councilors walked out, the clerk confirmed Isau Mupfumi, a businessman and ZANU-PF central committee member, Misheck Mugadza, former chairman of the Mutare Commission (which ran the city after the government dissolved the city council) and ZANU-PF supporter Tapiwa Matangaidze. But none of the three has a vote.

The MDC has accused Chombo of meddling in local government in a number of locations. He is said to have reversed a decision by Harare City Council to reinstate city employees fired by the former Harare Commission headed by Sekesai Makwavarara.

VOA was unable to reach Chombo for comment despite repeated calls to his mobile.

Mutare Deputy Mayor Admire Mukorera told reporter Jonga Kandemiiri that the council will not take up any measures put on the table by the ZANU-PF representatives.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...