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Suspension of Mayor, Councillors Worries Gweru Residents

Former Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai addressing journalists in Harare Wednesday, September 18, 2013. - VOA
Gweru residents are worried by the MDC-T’s move to suspend and expel some party councilors in the Midlands city along with colleagues from Mutare, Kwekwe, Redcliff, Bulawayo and Redcliff for defying the party and voting for Zanu PF councilors or candidates.

They said this may negatively impact service delivery as the city grapples with a water crisis due to the drying up of Gwenoro Dam - its main water source.

Some residents, who spoke with VOA Studio 7 said they are worried the decision to fire the councilors made at the weekend by the provincial council, if endorsed by the MDC’s supreme decision-making body - the national executive council - may affect the smooth-running of the local authority and ultimately service delivery.

The provincial leaders recommended that Mayor Hamutendi Kombayi and nine councilors should be fired from the party for not toeing the party line in the election of the mayor and his deputy.

The party’s preferred mayoral candidate was Charles Chikozho and Kenneth Sithole was expected to be his deputy.

Spokesperson Cornelia Selipiwe of the provincial executive of the MDC-T’s Youth Wing told Studio 7 that as a party activist he has no problem with the party taking disciplinary measures against what he says are errant members.

Selipiwe, also the chairperson of the Gweru Residents and Ratepayers Association, however shares the view that the dismissal of the 10 councilors would affect service delivery.

Another resident Diana Dube of Mkoba 4 also echoed the same sentiments, saying the city of Gweru faces problems that need urgent attention.

She said the recent inauguration of the councilors had raised hope that some of the problems would be addressed but MDC-T’s move is likely to put a damper to such expectations.

During their inauguration a fortnight ago, the MDC-T councilors elected Kombayi as mayor and Artwell Matyorauta as his deputy.

Studio 7 was not able to get comment from Kombayi.

But a councillor who spoke on condition of anonymity said although he agrees that the MDC-T should discipline wayward members, it is important for the party to handle the issue with care as it has the potential of making it lose significant membership.

He also said firing the councilors would impact negatively on service delivery.

Another resident Titus Mangoma of Daylesford said the government should quickly call for by-elections in the event that the MDC-T sticks to its decision to dismiss the councilors.

The government-controlled Chronicle newspaper quotes Local Government Permanent Secretary Killian Mupingo as saying the MDC-T’s intention to dismiss its councilors is illegal.

He is quoted as saying they need to have been found to be incompetent or guilty of corruption, according to the law, for them to be dismissed.

But MDC-T spokesperson Douglas Mwonzora said under the country’s new constitution, a political party has the right to dismiss an elected member who acts against his or her party.

Mwonzora said his party would not dismiss the councilors ‘willy-nilly’. He said they would be given the opportunity to defend themselves.