BULAWAYO City Council mayor Martin Moyo, his deputy Gift Banda and committee chairpersons, weathered an audacious coup attempt during an ill-tempted full council meeting on Wednesday after a group of councillors linked to MDC-Renewal pushed for their ouster.
The 29-member council is now evenly divided with MDC-T now having 15 councillors, while splinter group, MDC-Renewal has 14 members.
In a rare development, all 29 councillors were present.
Sources within council said MDC-Renewal councillors were confident they had garnered enough councillors to influence the change of committee chairpersons and later on the mayor and his deputy.
Councillor Sithabile Mataka-Moyo, who is linked to MDC-Renewal, moved a motion to change council committees, including chairpersons of committees, the deputy mayor and the mayor in line with the Urban Councils Act.
“I have found it to be fair that council committees should change, so that all councillors of the city could be afforded an opportunity to know how council operates through its committees,” she wrote.
“As a ward councillor, one is not restricted to one or two fields, but to all departments. So by changing committees, we will be getting exposure to all departments of council and that gives us experience.
“There are so many other benefits that go with the changing of committees, as was indicated by other councillors, which I really consider to be important.”
According to the Urban Councils Act Section 103, committee chairpersons are rotated on an annual basis in August, but this has not happened at the Bulawayo City Council since 2009. In July, a motion to continue with the current status quo was passed.
Councillors declined to change the committees on the basis that change was disruptive and may affect service delivery.
That was before MDC-Renewal had gained inroads within council.
Two MDC-Renewal deputy committee chairpersons said they were tired of their positions and needed change.
However, during a no-holds-barred meeting which saw an almost record attendance by residents at the gallery, with municipal reporters following proceedings seated on the floor, councillor Silas Chigora (MDC-T) ripped through Mataka-Moyo’s motion, saying “councillors are not elected to come and learn in council”.
He said those interested in learning engineering or accounting should enrol at any tertiary institution. This opened floodgates for mudslinging, with the mayor having a torrid time controlling the councillors.
The matter was finally settled through a vote, through the show of hands, a move that unsettled MDC-Renewal councillors who had requested a secret ballot.
Two sets of elections were then conducted, first a vote for the secret ballot, which saw MDC-T councillors amassing 15 votes against MDC-Renewal’s 14.
However, when it came to voting on the motion to change committees, 13 MDC-Renewal members abstained in protest, handing victory to MDC-T.
The plot to oust Moyo and Banda has been brewing since February and Southern Eye revealed at the time that about 18 out of the 29 councillors had been mobilised to pass a vote of no confidence against the two.
This was despite warnings that the plot could backfire, as Moyo and Banda’s ouster could present Local Government minister, Ignatius Chombo with a perfect opportunity to set up a commission to run the affairs of the city.