Vice-President Phelekezela Mphoko has been accused of bulldozing into Bulawayo City Council affairs after he spearheaded the rehabilitation of roads in Cowdray Park without the consent of the local authority.
BY SILAS NKALA
Mphoko has been leading the rehabilitation of the roads in the suburb ahead of the Luveve parliamentary by-election on June 10 where his Zanu PF party is seeking to win the seat for the first time in 15 years.
Cowdray Park, a sprawling high-density suburb, forms the core of the Luveve constituency and has of late been a beneficiary of the VP’s benevolence.
However, a report of the council’s engineering services committee debated at a full council meeting on Wednesday showed that although councillors were willing to welcome donations to rehabilitate infrastructure, they were not happy with Mphoko’s approach.
Councillors said Mphoko was only rehabilitating the roads to campaign for Zanu PF candidates contesting the five high-stake by-elections in Bulawayo.
Councillor Rodney Jele said it was disturbing that the graders used in the exercise had Zanu PF posters.
“Was the council aware of such activities?” Jele was quoted asking in the council minutes.
“There was need for council to approach the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing for clarification in order to avoid misunderstanding,” the report added.
Councillor Charles Moyo said there was need to avoid confrontation and encouraged dialogue.
“The public relations section should inform the public on procedure to be followed if people/organisations wished to offer services (donations etc) to the council,” he said.
Councillor Silas Chigora said Mphoko’s initiative in Cowdray Park was politically motivated.
“Donors should conduct themselves in a professional manner and get professional assistance from council engineers,” Chigora said.
“The problem on the ground now is that council infrastructure could be damaged by the contractor as there is no council supervision on current projects.”
Councillor Thobani Ncube urged Zanu PF officials and any other donors to follow proper procedure whenever they offered services to the local authority.
“Proper channels or procedure should be followed in the usual manner,” Ncube said.
Chairperson of the committee councillor Norman Hlabani said council was not properly informed of the road rehabilitation programme.
“In this case there was no report because of its political nature. There was need to protect council staff in this regard,” Hlabani said.
Engineering services director Simela Dube confirmed that a representative from Mphoko’s office had requested permission to rehabilitate the roads and was advised to follow proper procedures.
“They felt that municipal procedures resulted in delays,” Dube said. “They were then advised to write to the mayor. They pointed out that the contractor was too busy to wait for such council approval.
“They accordingly started grading without council approval and acknowledgement.”
Town clerk Middleton Nyoni said the project should have been approved by council as per procedure.