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of councils unconstitutional
Phyllis Mbanje, The Standard (Zimbabwe)
July 07, 2013
the Minister of Local Government, Rural and Urban Development acted
illegally when he dissolved local authorities around the country,
constitutional experts have said.
all councils saying their tenure had ended.
A circular distributed
by the secretary for Local Government, Rural and Urban Development,
Killian Mpingo then announced that caretakers and commissions would
take over council affairs.
For Harare and
Bulawayo metropolitan provinces, town clerks and the respective
provincial administrators have been appointed to take charge of
In other urban
councils, district administrators and town clerks or local board
secretaries would be in charge while in rural councils, district
administrators and chief executive officers would be commissioners.
58 (1) of the former
Constitution which was cited by Mpingo makes no mention of the dissolution
of local authority councils.
It merely says
that council elections are to be harmonised with Presidential and
expert Professor Lovemore Madhuku said the Constitution does not
have the mandate to regulate the term of office of councils.
has been done is unlawful. Our constitution does not regulate the
term of office of council; it only has provisions that relate to
the councillors had also acted irresponsibly alongside Chombo when
they agreed to step down in accordance with the misguided directive.
enjoy the same status as executives and their term of office is
clearly spelt out in the Urban
Councils Act,” said Madhuku. “Councillors are supposed
to remain in office until the newly elected team comes into office.”
The Rural District
Councils Act, section 30 (1) says: “Every elected councillor
shall assume office as a councillor on the day following the day
of his election, and … shall hold such office until the day
following the day on which a new councillor is elected.”
the general public should flood the Constitutional Court with applications
seeking to overturn Chombo’s directive.
Veritas, a watchdog
group of lawyers that monitors Parliament,
also questioned the constitutionality of dissolving councils.
It accused Chombo
of making an assumption that dissolution of Parliament also meant
that councils must be dissolved.
is a heroic assumption, to put it mildly. Neither the old nor the
new constitution says so expressly and the fact that elections for
different institutions are held together does not necessarily mean
that the office-bearers in those institutions must serve the same
clear that the Secretary and, presumably, his minister were acting
in the belief that since the life of Parliament came to an end on
the 29th June, the terms of office of all local authority councillors
also came to an end.”
It further charged
that even though Parliament had expired, the President’s term
had not ended, as did that of MPs who were elected together with
it had been intended that local authorities expire when Parliament
expires, one would have expected a specific statement to that effect
in the Constitution or in an Act of Parliament.”
The group also
said the councillors were supposed to stay in office until the elections
were held and the new bearers announced.
themselves remain in place from one election to the next, because
one cannot have councillors if there are no councils for them to
sit on,” said Veritas. “If therefore the Secretary’s
letter to local authorities was based on legal advice, then the
advice was questionable at best in regard to urban councils, and
downright wrong in regard to rural district councils.”
A Harare commission
led by Sekesai Makwavarara in 2004 was accused of running the city
to the ground. It was accused of corruption, poor service delivery
and rampant looting of council properties.
Harare Residents Association (CHRA) director, Mfundo Mlilo said
they were against the appointment of commissions and caretakers.
against the appointment of the commission because they are only
accountable to government. The precious commissions plundered the
scarce resources that were there at the time.”
Residents Trust (HRT) fears massive corruption by the commissions
appointed to run local authorities as has happened before.
Precious Shumba said previous commissions were not accountable to
the ratepayers and abused resources.
or caretakers are by nature very inconvenient to the residents given
their tendency to undermine decisions made by the elected council,”
he said. “As the HRT, we shall be keeping a close eye on council’s
operations in the absence of the elected council.”
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