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Commission of inquiry findings fail to be tabled as Victoria Falls councillors fight

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BY NOKUTHABA DLAMINI 

A special full council meeting meant to present the findings of a commission of inquiry set by the Ministry of Local Government and Public Works to investigate claims of corruption against Victoria Falls City town clerk Ronnie Dube failed to take off on Tuesday after the city’s mayor and councillors came to a standoff over who should preside over the discussions. 

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Minister July Moyo set up the probe team late last year after resident’s activists and the mayor Somvelo Dhlamini levelled corruption allegations against the local authority’s management head.

Earlier this month, the ministry brought the findings of the report for adoption which was meant to be tabled to a full council, but failed after Dhlamini was confronted by ward various councillors accusing him of breaching the law. 

“You can’t chair the meeting when you are an interested party,” ward three councillor Lungile Nyoni charged first.

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This was after Dhlamini had asked his deputy mayor Patricia Mwale to pray ahead of the meeting. 

“You are misleading the council and you can not chair also because of your court case,” he added.

“You are supposed to sit there as the residents because you are an interested party because that’s what was said by the minister regarding this matter. ” 

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The two exchanged some harsh words as the mayor demanded to be provided with an act that prohibits him from chairing the meeting despite being the complainant into Dube’s allegations. 

“Which law?”Dhlamini quizzed. 

“I said come with the law and if it’s there, I will listen to your reasons…

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“I am supposed to chair this and discuss it with the chamber secretary’s office because I have to know what we are talking about.”

Moments after, the argument was paused after Nyoni suggested that he  should call the minister to give him a go ahead to chair. 

Dhlamini and Dube then stepped out of the board room to call Moyo, but came back to report that he was not answering his mobile phones. 

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Dhlamini then insisted to go ahead with his decision to chair or temporarily adjourn, but again was interjected by ward one councillor Tonderai Mutasa who advised him that it was against the law as he was an interested party. 

Mutasa’s sentiments were also echoed by ward 11 councillor  Edmore Zhou. 

“So if we are saying we are adjouning the meeting because the mayor said we have to and at the same time you are saying he is not supposed to chair the meeting, surely for me it doesn’t balance,”Zhou said. 

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“We are here with the residents, we need to do the correct things and if we are saying the mayor is not supposed to chair, he doesn’t have the power to adjourn the meeting so that’s why residents can not take us serious because we won’t be doing the right thing and in accordance with our the law, so he should do the right thing. “

“I will not step down,” Dhlamini charged. 

“I will never. ” he added. 

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Zhou then went on to quiz why Dhlamini had stopped attending some committee meetings that have nothing to do with the report’s findings. 

However, other councillors wanted the meeting to proceed with Dhlamini chairing, on condition that he signs down as they were worried about wasting the resident’s time and council expenditure to host such meetings. 

Following the back and fourth which led to some resident’s activists to get agitated, Dhlamini announced that the meeting will be adjourned to allow the minister to respond together with a supporting act on why he should not chair. 

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Dube and Dhlamini have been in the eye of a storm since the arrest of Dhlamini in October on allegations of fraud emanating from the acquisition of a housing stand from the local authority.

Dhlamini was arrested shortly after a group of war veterans and members of the Hwange Residents Association raided the town clerk’s office and force marched him out

The group said they wanted Dube to step aside to allow for investigations into allegations of corruption levelled against him to be concluded first.

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Few days after, war veterans from Matabeleland North convened a meeting that was attended by over 300 residents to discuss the corruption allegations against the local authority. 

Victoria Falls Combined Residents Association (Vifacora) executive member Trymore Ndolo told the meeting that they had information allegedly showing how Dube and some councillors ‘corruptly’ sold commercial prime land known as Stand Number 8300 which was earmarked for a water, hygiene and sanitation project, was sold for US$4 million instead of US$14 million that was agreed to by a full council meeting.

The report was meant to address its findings on such allegations among others. 

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After the meeting, Vifacora chairperson Kelvin Moyo expressed disappointment in the capacity of some officers and councillors. 

“We are very much disappointed in what ended up happening, I think all counsillors when they are getting to council they know what they are expected to do, the rules and procedures of the law, but it wasn’t so because there was unparalleled ignorance that was displayed by some of the officers and counsillors,”he said. 

“As residents, we feel that we are shortchanged in terms of the rate of which the service delivery in concerned because we were hoping that the findings were going to be presented at the end of the day so as residents, we should look at the capacity in understanding issues and adjudication so much so that it can all come to the benefits of the residents.”

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The town clerk also called on the minister’s intervention.

“This stems from the fact that the moyor has a pending case in court and the minister (Moyo) issued a circular in February 2022 directive which stated that all council officials with pending cases should remain barred from council and this is the same interpretation which we have,”he said. 

Dube revealed that the authority has written three letters to the minister seeking clarity on the matter, but none has been responded to. 

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“Going forward, we are going to consult again this time indicating that this scenario will render council dysfunctional.” 

 

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Thieves target solar panels for Victoria Falls’ rural community gardens

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BY BRENDA NCUBE 

Villagers living in the outskirts of Victoria Falls have been left counting losses after eight suspected thieves broke into  their community nutrition gardens and stole solar panels on Saturday last week. 

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According to the area councillors, the thieves separately stole at least nine solar panels  in  Mashala, Change and Mpongola wards and vandalised some. 

According to Marvelous Mhlanga, one of the farmers from Mashala, the suspects firstly attempted to steal a pump and an inverter but failed, before opting to vandalise the solar panels. 

Pascar Mpofu, a  councillor for Mashala ward said because of the disruptions, villagers are no longer able to water their gardens, posing a risk to many whose source of livelihoods is in farming.

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“All gardening activities have stopped as the only source of water for domestic use and gardening has been cut,” he said. 

The solar pumps were installed several years ago by World Vision in a bid to make Hwange villages self-sufficient and have since become the source of livelihood for the community.

For villagers such as Mhlanga, the garden produce could suffice their families and could manage to send their children to school through wholesaling green paper, green beans, carrots and sugar beans as far as Hwange urban. 

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“Now we are at a loss and not sure how to survive as we are already fetching water for domestic use from the streams,”Mhlanga said. 

” We are hoping that the rains will be enough for our crops to ripen, but we don’t know what the future holds. ” she added.

Mpofu said that the solar panels will need to be replaced in time to resume gardening activities and the community is in the process of mobilising a neighborhood watch to safeguard the premises.

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“We believe that the thieves are locals working with outsiders,” said Mpofu 

He further revealed that the suspects have been caught and are in police custody for questioning.

Meanwhile, several solar panels have also been  stolen from boreholes dotted around Hwange National Park, Kazuma Pan National Park and the Zambezi National Park by suspected thieves from neighbouring Zambia.

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Trevor Lane, whose Bhejane Trust has been leading in the mobilisation of funds to drill boreholes and install solar panels to power the pumps at the three game parks, said the theft of solar panels intensified during Covid-19 lockdowns.

 

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Bloody festive as 148 perish in road traffic accidents

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BY BRENDA NCUBE 

The Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) has revealed that a total of 148 people perished in road traffic accidents during the festive season, with 669 sustaining serious injuries. 

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ZRP revealed this on Monday in a statement, adding that the road traffic accidents totalled 2723, with 108 fatal accidents recorded and 669 injuries. 

The review was from December 15 2022 up to January 15. 

According to ZRP, the number of accidents for the same period was however a bit higher, between December 15 2021 and January 15 2022 at 2 741 previously compared to 2 723 reported this time. 

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The number of deaths rose from 138 to 148. 

For the safety of all road users, the ZRP implored drivers to safeguard lives by exercising caution and safety standards, especially during this rainy season as some roads are slippery and in a bad state.

Public service vehicle operators were also urged to “adhere to speed limits on the country’s roads and stop engaging in highway races while competing for passengers.

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The public was also encouraged to report errant drivers on the roads to any nearest police station or call the National Complaints Desk number 0242 703631 or WhatsApp on 0712 800 197.

Police said they will continue to road rules and regulations without fear or favour. 

 

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Shock as 18-months-old baby drowns in a pool in Binga

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BY LWANDLE MTHUNZI

A family from Bulawayo’s Warringham plots has been thrown into mourning after its 18-months old child drowned in a pool in Binga.

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The boy, Adrin Phiri had visited his grandmother Abigail Mguni in Tinde area under Chief Pashu when he disappeared from home around midday only for his lifeless body to be found in a 1.5 metre deep pool three hours later.

Police said the incident happened on Friday last week.

The matter was treated as sudden death by drowning.

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“On the 18th day of January 2023 Adrin Phiri aged 18 months of Plot 70 Warringham in Bulawayo and his grandmother Abigirl Mguni visited their relatives in Tinde under Chief Pashu. On 20 January at around 12 noon

Adrin was playing outside with his two cousins aged three years and five years,” said the police.

It is alleged that Adrin left the homestead and exited through the gate with no one noticing.

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He proceeded to the main road which is a few metres from the homestead.

Moments later, his grandmother discovered that he was no longer with his cousins and looked for him.

After failing to locate him, the grandmother and some relatives and neighbours launched a search but to no avail.

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At about 3pm, two juveniles saw the body stuck in mud in a pool about 20 metres away from the homestead.

A report was made to the police who attended the scene and have urged members of the public to monitor children and also to be wary of water bodies especially during the rainy season.

 

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