FORMER Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s preferred mayoral candidates for the country’s major cities fell by the wayside yesterday as the MDC-T appeared to succumb to government threats to block non-elected officials from assuming the posts.
The party had insisted that it would defy a directive by the government for councils to confine themselves to elected councillors when choosing mayors.
National University of Science and Technology academic Mandla Nyathi had been earmarked for the prestigious post in Bulawayo.
But councillors who met at the City Council chambers unanimously elected ward 5 councillor Martin Moyo as the new mayor.
He would be deputised by veteran soccer administrator Gift Banda who had to ward off the challenge of Collet Ndlovu and Ernest Rafamoyo in a secret ballot.
In his acceptance picture, Moyo pledged to turn around the fortunes of the city.
“I am confident that this team (councillors) will perpetuate that legacy and continue to perform highly in excellence,” he said.
“It is important that we appreciate our circumstance. We have just recovered, or not quite, but we are waking up from a huge catastrophe, a collapsed system!
“The roads have collapsed. Public places are not lit. We have problems providing water and so many other services are needed.
“I pledge today that this council will do its utmost to deliver.”
Meanwhile, MDC-T councillors in Redcliff and Kwekwe voted for Zanu PF mayors leaving their own peers in the cold.
In Redcliff where MDC-T has seven councillors to Zanu PF’s two, Freddy Kapuya was elected ahead of MDC-T’s Takura Chikwira with five votes against four.
What could have been a tightly contested mayoral race in Kwekwe where both Zanu PF and MDC-T hold seven seats each, Matenda Madzoke of Zanu PF became the mayor during the first round of voting when a councillor from the MDC-T voted for him.
Madzoke won with eight votes while MDC-T’s Aaron Gwalazimba polled six votes. Zanu PF did not nominate a candidate for the deputy mayor position which was then contested between Weston Masiya and Aaron Sithole both of MDC-T.
Sithole won the race with nine votes ahead of Masiya’s five votes.
There was commotion in Mutare after MDC-T councillors elected a Zanu PF councillor as the deputy mayor despite the former holding a clear majority. Tatenda Nhemarare of Ward 8 garnered 10 votes to beat Thomas Nyamupadengeu who got nine votes.
Zanu PF’s Collen Mukwada was elected deputy mayor after polling 10 votes to beat MDC-T Kudakwashe Chisango who got nine votes.
MDC-T has 13 wards against Zanu PF’s six wards in Mutare.
Party supporters accused councillors of “selling out the party”.
In Harare, Bernard Manyenyeni beat Zanu PF’s Musatye Gwasira after all the 38 MDC-T councillors voted for him while the seven Zanu PF councillors voted for their candidate.
Thomas Muzuva became the deputy mayor after beating a Zanu PF nominee with the same margin of 38 for seven. Tsvangirai wanted former Justice deputy minister Obert Gutu to take over from renowned lawyer Muchadeyi Masunda as Harare’s next mayor.
MDC-T spokesperson Douglas Mwonzora maintained a brave face after the elections saying the new mayors had the party’s blessings.
He said Local Government minister Ignatius Chombo wanted to disrupt the elections by insisting that only elected councilors should become mayors.
“Councillors did not defy any party directive to select from elected members,” Mwonzora said.
“They did that with full authority from the party after it became apparent that Chombo would not allow un-elected councillors to be mayors or deputies.
“Those elected were part of the alternative which is referred to as Plan B. Therefore, the election of mayors in Bulawayo and elsewhere does not weaken us a party. We still control those local authorities.”
Mwonzora claimed his party was fully aware of Chombo’s “malicious” intent to interfere in the running of those councils. “We have plans to counter that” he said.