Commission of inquiry findings fail to be tabled as Victoria Falls councillors fight
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.
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.
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. ”
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…
“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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
“Going forward, we are going to consult again this time indicating that this scenario will render council dysfunctional.”
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Zimbabwe turn towards black market as inflation rises
Zimbabweans are feeling the wrath of high inflation. The rate of inflation in the southern African country now stands at 131.7 percent in the month of May.
Locals are now helpless as they are now forced to search for cheaper products as a way to survive the overpriced goods at major supermarkets.
In these shops they call trucks, lie the solution to their demise as they can buy cheaper products compared top large supermarkets.
“We buy at the truck shop because they are cheap, their price is not even expensive because there, in the big shops these days, they are expensive. Even their rate is less (than in supermarkets, ed.), at the truck shop they give us the good rates, that’s why we prefer to buy at the truck shop because they are cheap,” a customer said.
Zimbabwe has endure years of fluctuating value of currencies worsened by adoption of US dollar. Many Zimbabweans are now shunning away from major stores that experience frequent fluctuating currency rates when converting to the local Zim Dollar.
“Its cheaper for customers to buy from out here, for instance for a dollar they can get two drinks, instead of one from a supermarket. It’s also because our exchange rate is better than the official rate,” said one vendor.
The black market is also taking a toll on the local Zim Dollar with economists warning of a further deterioration of the local currency if not regulated.
“What we have witnessed over the past weeks is a massive increase in pricing, Zim dollar pricing. This has largely been caused by the very significant depreciation of the local currency that we have seen on the black market or on the parallel market,” said Prosper Chitambara, an economist.
Zimbabwe’s economy is inching toward “full dollarization,” with the local currency facing collapse, local investment firm Inter-Horizon Securities said. It slumped by 34% in April alone-Source: Africa News.
Zimbabwe releases more than 4 000 prisoners in presidential amnesty
HARARE – About a fifth of all prisoners in Zimbabwe were released on Thursday under a presidential amnesty a few months ahead of crunch general elections.
A total of 4270 inmates were let out, according to the country’s correctional service, which described the reprieve as a “noble gesture” by the president.
“We would like to appeal to… society at large to embrace and accept the inmates who have been released,” Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Service (ZPCS) said in a statement.
“Those aggrieved are encouraged to forgive them”.
The move brings down overcrowding in the country’s more than 50 detention centres, which have capacity for about 17 000 people but held more than 22 000 before the amnesty.
Yet, ZPCS spokesperson Meya Khanyezi told AFP “it was not about decongestion”.
“This was just a noble gesture by the president,” she said.
The amnesty was granted to various categories of prisoners including those who have served at least three-quarters of their sentence, or one tenth if over the age of 60.
Violent criminals as well as those serving time for robbery, treason and public order and security offences were excluded.
Those released will be able to vote in presidential and legislative elections that are to be held in August, although no date has been announced yet.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa is struggling to ease entrenched poverty, end chronic power cuts and rein in inflation.
He granted a similar amnesty at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 in a bid to curtail the spread of the virus in detention facilities.- AFP
Free elections key to Zimbabwe’s debt settlement, says AfDB
HARARE – Zimabwe’s upcoming presidential election and compensation of white farmers whose land was seized two decades ago are key to efforts to restructure its crippling debt, the African development bank chief said Monday.
African Development Bank (AfDB) president Akinwumi Adesina and Mozambique’s ex-president Joaquim Chissano, are leading efforts to help Zimbabwe re-engage with the West to clear its US$8.3 billion bilateral and multilateral debt.
“The success of the efforts we have all put into this process will depend on what happens with the upcoming presidential elections,” Adesina said at debt resolution talks with President Emmerson Mnangagwa in Harare.
He said the international community will be “watching very closely” the vote.
“The full weight of re-engagement with the international community will depend on this… (and) the entire electoral process that guarantees a credible election”.
“Success on the political and electoral reforms, and a free and fair election, are crucial to clear the pathway towards arrears clearance and debt resolution for Zimbabwe,” he added.
Rights groups and opposition parties have complained of a clampdown ahead of elections, whose date is yet to be set.
Chissano, a respected statesman said holding “free and fair elections” and settling the issue of compensation for white former commercial farmers were among “low-hanging fruits” in advancing dialogue with the West and international financial institutions.
“Harvesting these low-hanging fruits is critical as they are likely to trigger decisive action towards arrears clearance and debt resolution,” he said.
Chissano and Adesina last week met members of the US Congress, State Department, Treasury among other agencies to discuss Zimbabwe.
Adesina revealed that the AfDB is working with Zimbabwe to develop “innovative financial instruments and structures that can be used to front-load the mobiliSation of the US$3.5 billion for compensations”, without getting into further debt.
“It is important that we find a mechanism to try to fast-track…the payment of these compensations”.
Zimbabwe’s late ex-president Robert Mugabe launched land reforms in 2000, grabbing white-owned farms to reverse a historical land ownership imbalance that favoured the white minority population.
More than 4,000 of Zimbabwe’s 4,500 white commercial farmers were evicted from their properties, which were given to black tenants.
But in 2020 Mnangagwa, who succeeded Mugabe following a military-led coup, signed a US$3.5 billion deal with dispossessed farmers to compensate them for infrastructure developments on their former land. – Eyewitness News
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January 19, 2023 at 1:36 pm
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