A High Court judge has nullified the suspension of Gweru councilors, paving the way for their return to work following their suspension in August last year.
Justice Francis said after having weighed the argument presented by the councillors’ lawyers and that presented by the lawyers representing Local Government Minister Savior Kasukuwere, who was first respondent in the matter, he had come to the conclusion that the minister had acted unlawfully.
Bere said it is clear that the provisions of the removal of mayors or councillors from office under Section 114 of the Urban Councils Act were different from those spelt out in Section 278 of the new constitution and hence the minister’s action had been in contradiction with the new constitution.
Kasukuwere suspended all of Gweru’s 18 councillors last August on allegations of abuse of office and corruption. Three of the councillors were subsequently fired and replaced through a by-election.
The minister had then appointed a three-member tribunal to look into the allegations against the councillors and later appointed a commission, which has been running council affairs up to date.
Mayor Hamutendi Kombayi and 10 other councillors, had initially been granted a provisional order setting aside their suspension and halting the disciplinary proceedings of the tribunal pending their application for the final order which was granted Monday.
In the application, Kombayi and his colleagues sought that Kasukuwere’s appointment of the tribunal be declared as being contrary to the constitution and that the charges laid against them be declared null and void.
One of the lawyers representing the councilors, Reginald Chidawanyika, said he was pleased with the judgment, adding that it meant that the councillors could immediately go back to work.
Another lawyer also representing the councilors, Esau Madipa, said he did not see the local government ministry appealing against the judgment as it was a well-reasoned one.
Kasukuwere was not available for comment as he was not responding to calls on his mobile phone. The local government ministry has over the years suspended or fired many councillors in Zimbabwe in a move many have viewed as political interference in the running of local authorities.