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Fate of Ousted Zimbabwe Councillors Now in Minister Chombo's Hands

Twelve councillors of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) formation of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai expelled by the party last Friday for allegedly engaging in corrupt activities, will remain in their jobs until they are dismissed by the Minister of Local Government Ignatius Chombo, authorities have said.

Nimrod Chiminya, president of the Zimbabwe Local Government Association, told the VOA that the councillors have only been suspended by their party and not by the relevant ministry.

Chiminya said as of now they are members of the local authority and still entitled to all their benefits.

“The appropriate authority will issue investigations and they will either be cleared or found guilty and appropriate measures taken," he said.

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Senator Obert Gutu, speaking in his capacity as the Harare spokesman of Mr. Tsvangirai's party, said the Urban Councils Act "unfortunately gives a lot of powers to the minister of local government".

Gutu said in this case he does not see any co-operation between the MDC and Minister Chombo of Zanu PF in firing the councillors.

“So if these councillors are really not disciplined party cadres you may find a situation where they will remain councillors because they will simply defy the party and continue to serve as councillors.

“This is what Minister Chombo has always encouraged our councillors to do and this is one of the biggest weaknesses in the present Urban Councils Act ... I think he (Chombo) will try to use this to cause confusion within the party (MDC),” Gutu said.

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Chombo was not immeditely available for comment.

Deputy secretary-general Tapiwa Mashakada of the Tsvangirai MDC told journalists last week that the councillors, who will soon be identified, were drawn from Harare, Gweru, Kwekwe and Zvishavane.

The councillors are accused of manipulating tender procedures, among other charges.

A damning research conducted recently by the Mass Public Opinion Institute cited corruption within the former opposition party, especially in councils, as one of the reasons for the MDC-T’s declining support.

Mashakada warned that more councillors face disciplinary action for “engaging in activities that bring the party into disrepute.”

Clement Moyo, a commentator and chairman of the Mediation for Peace Center said the expulsions will send a warning signal to other councillors and corrupt ministers.

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“If the investigations show that the councillors are corrupt, then the MDC has taken the right step in disciplining them.”

Moyo said: “Our country has not been positive, straightforward and strategic in dealing with people who are corrupt. That is one of the reasons our economy is facing serious challenges”.

Meanwhile, pensioners - irked by the council’s failure to clean up Zimbabwe’s capital city and persistent outbreaks of diseases such as typhoid and cholera - decided Monday to swap their walking sticks with brooms in an attempt to get rid of accumulating garbage.

The Pensioners Trust of Zimbabwe rolled out the program in Harare - once dubbed the Sunshine City.

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