MASVINGO Rural District Council has taken Local Government minister Ignatius Chombo to court challenging his recent directive compelling the local authority to reverse a decision to renew its retired chief executive officer’s contract on an annual basis.
The council had last June resolved to renew Clemence Makwarimba’s contract yearly following his retirement.
Makwarimba joined the council in 1994 and reached retirement age last December before councillors resolved to award him annual contracts while scouting for a replacement.
But on February 6, Chombo wrote to council chairman Peter Marambire, threatening him with disciplinary action should he go ahead and renew Makwarimba’s contract.
On February 10, Marambire through council lawyer Marshal Chitsanga, filed an urgent chamber application accusing Chombo of overstepping his mandate by using old pieces of legislation that contradicted some clauses of the new Constitution.
He said according to Sections 264 and 276 of the new Constitution, Chombo was overstepping his mandate because councils now had the right to make own decisions without interference from the minister.
Part of the application reads: “I submit that the respondent (Chombo) does not have any legal basis in forcing the first applicant (Marambire) and the council to terminate my contact of employment.
“I submit that such interference by the respondent in the affairs of the council is not in line with the constitutional provisions relating to devolution of the governmental powers and responsibilities. Accordingly the respondent is acting unconstitutionally and ought to be restrained from such conduct.
“I also aver that the respondent does not have a legal basis to institute disciplinary proceedings against first applicant for the acts resolved and done by the council. He ought to be restrained from instituting such proceedings against the first respondent,” the application added.
Marambire said Chombo’s threat to discipline him over Makwarimba’s reappointment was unlawful.
“I also submit that the respondent does not have the legal basis to interfere in the appointment of the second respondent in the manner he is conducting himself,” he submitted.
“Respondent is acting in direct conflict with the provisions of the devolution of the governmental powers and responsibilities as enshrined in the supreme law of the land.”
However, Chombo through his lawyers Mandizha and Company, filed an opposing affidavit on February 19 saying: “I have the powers to call upon the council to rescind its resolution if I wanted to.
“It is the applicants who are acting unlawfully and cannot seek to interdict my otherwise lawful conduct.”