SW Radio Africa (London)

5 February 2014

Zimbabwe: Urgent Court Application Filed to Stop Town Clerk Reporting for Duty

An urgent High Court application has been filed in Harare to stop suspended Harare Town Clerk Tendai Mahachi from reporting for duty, a lawyer said on Wednesday.

Bellinda Chinowawa of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights filed the urgent application when Local Government Minister Ignatious Chombo ignored an earlier one-day ultimatum to rescind his directive to re-appoint Mahachi.

Chinowawa, representing Harare resident and ratepayer Tawanda Zhuwarara on Tuesday wrote a letter to Chombo issuing the Minister with the one day ultimatum. When Chombo failed to respond at the end of the deadline, Chinowawa immediately filed an urgent chamber application, seeking the court to quash Chombo's directive.

There are reports Chombo is shielding Mahachi, a friend and former University colleague, from possible prosecution amid suspicions he wants him to stay put at Town House to cover up their dirty tracks.

In the absence of Mahachi, investigations into dealings at the Town House could unravel entrenched corruption, generally accepted as being responsible for the capital city's underdevelopment.

The defiant town clerk has been reporting for duty despite Mayor Bernard Manyenyeni insisting that he remains suspended until a full council meeting resolves the issue. Manyenyeni suspended Mahachi last week Thursday, saying the town clerk had refused to comply with a council resolution that required him to provide the salary schedules of top council employees, including his own.

But less than 48 hours later, Chombo told reporters that Mahachi had been reinstated. The mayor confirmed Wednesday that Mahachi was still reporting for work at the Town House despite being slapped with a three month suspension, with full benefits, all done according to the Urban Councils Act.

So an aggrieved resident took it upon himself to take Chombo head-on over the Town Clerk saga. Through his lawyer, Zhuwarara demanded that Chombo should rescind his decision on Mahachi at 2 pm Wednesday.

Lawyer Chinowawa told SW Radio Africa that they have asked the High court to quash the directive by Chombo so that Mahachi' suspension remains in place.

'The fact that Chombo's directive is a nullity at law means that Mahachi cannot benefit from an illegality,' said Chinowawa, adding that Mahachi is not being prejudiced by his suspension because he was sent home on full benefits.

Chinowawa added: 'The matter will be put before the Judge President tomorrow (Thursday) and we hope before the end of the week, there should be a resolution to the matter.'

Meanwhile the chairperson of Harare City Council's finance committee, councillor Norman Markham, has resigned from his post over the non-disclosure of executive salaries and general unaccountability at Town House.

In his resignation letter to Mayor Manyenyeni, Markham said he was uncomfortable heading a finance committee that had no control over finances, according to media reports on Wednesday.

'It is with regret that I tender my resignation as chairman of the finance committee and indeed the committee itself. I cannot believe that anyone with any self-respect would chair the Harare City Council finance committee as it stands and runs today.

'For over six months we have been waiting for contracts for grade one to four employees. This scope, like all the grades is overstaffed for our resources, but the packages are extraordinary. This band alone accounts for nearly 10 percent of our wage bill. We have no control over contracts, benefits drawn,' said Markham in his letter.

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