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GNU urged to curtail excessive powers vested in the Minister of Local Government
Centre for Community Development in Zimbabwe (CCDZ)
February 25, 2012

The Centre for Community Development in Zimbabwe (CCDZ) expresses its disappointment and concern over recent developments by the Minister of Local Government which serve to militate against positive service delivery in urban and rural councils.

It is clear that Minister Chombo is targeting MDC councils that he wants to neutralize ahead of the planned elections in 2012/2013. Although there might be genuine cases of corruption involving these officials, it is baffling why it is only officials from one political party in the inclusive government that are targeted. There is urgent need for reforms in local government to rid it of partisan interference. The imperial powers vested in the Minister must be curtailed. There are plenty of suspected/reported cases of corruption in ZANU PF-run councils which are never investigated.

In almost all rural communities where CCDZ is working there are reports of ZANU PF councilors diverting agricultural inputs for their own benefit at the expense of the intended beneficiaries; the communities Minister Chombo is also deliberately disregarding the people's will by using imposing the so-called 'Special Interest' councilors in wards where MDC-T won.

Equally worrying is the Ministers interference with traditional leaders. CCDZ notes with great alarm the unilateral the installations and removal of chiefs and the creation of new Headmen and Village Heads in former commercial farming areas.

The Minister has also announced that the Ministry of Local Government will in the next eight months create new boundaries for chiefdoms. Given the already partisan approach to local government issues, there is a possibility that this is a deliberate political move to give chiefs who support ZANU PF an advantage over those perceived to be MDC. In light of this, CCDZ takes this as defacto delimitation ahead of the impending election. Delimitation of constituencies is the purview of the Delimitation Commission as per the Electoral Act. The Minister of Local Government is acting ultra vires powers by tampering with traditional chiefdom boundaries to give ZANU PF an electoral edge over other parties.

We suspect that the distribution of blankets, food, agricultural inputs and the electrification of chiefs' rural homesteads could be a ploy to 'buy' the loyalty of chiefs ahead of the next elections. This would be in violation of the Traditional Leaders Act which stipulates that chiefs should not be involved in political matters.

During CCDZ activities, community members have reported that the so-called 'Special Interest Councilors' are being used for partisan purposes by Minister Ignatius Chombo. Others have gone as far as alleging that the Special Interest Councilors have become more powerful than the elected councilors. CCDZ urges these Councilors to invest their energy into solving the day to day problems which affect ordinary Zimbabweans such as the recent typhoid outbreak and other critical service delivery issues; rather than to meddle in petty political ploy.

CCDZ would also like to express its concern over the increased harassment of vendors and small scale business owners with links to political parties. Given the current estimated 80% unemployment rate, such actions have the same effect as Operation Murambatsvina in that they seek to destabilize the livelihoods of Zimbabweans who are not in formal employment.

It is our hope that the Second Draft Constitution of Zimbabwe will contain progressive provisions which constitutionalise local government matters. and protect it from partisan interference by the Minister.

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