BULAWAYO High Court judge, Justice Francis Bere has ordered Local Government minister Saviour Kasukuwere and Midlands provincial administrator, Cecila Chitiyo to meet the legal costs in the case involving Gweru mayor Hamutendi Kombayi and 10 other MDC-T councilors, who recently successfully challenged their suspension.
BY STEPHEN CHADENGA
In a written final High Court order under case number HC 2371/15 released on Monday, Justice Bere said he had given the respondents’ lawyer, Ephraim Mukucha, an opportunity to address him on the costs of the suit, but the latter maintained his clients had acted in terms of the law.
Justice Bere ordered “the first (Kasukuwere) and second (Chitiyo) respondents to bear the costs of suit”.
“I have agonised over the question of costs in this case given the issues involved,” he said.
“Under normal circumstances, I would have been persuaded to spare the first and second respondents from the burden of costs. I gave the respondents’ counsel an opportunity to address me on the question of costs.
“For some strange reason, he maintained that the respondents acted in terms of the law. How strange?”
The High Court judge said Kasukuwere, being in charge of the administration of the Urban Councils Act, had a constitutional mandate to ensure its provisions were aligned with the Constitution to “avoid undesired consequences”, but that nothing was put to him to demonstrate that the minister had “enthusiasm to align the offending provisions of the Urban Councils Act with the new constitution”.
He said the provincial administrator “blindly” waded into the conflict between the councillors and Kasukuwere.
“When the court is faced with such errant litigants, they must not be spared the burden of costs,” Bere ruled.
“The conduct of the first respondent in appointing a tribunal to hear charges against the applicants be, hereby, declared to be ultra vires section 278(3) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe.
“That the notice of August 25, 2015 and the charges as contained in the letter of August 25, 2015 and purported to have been crafted in terms of section 114 of the Urban Councils Act be, and are hereby, declared null and void and of no force or effect.
“That the proceedings presided over by the ‘tribunal’ be, and are hereby, quashed and set aside. That the first and second respondents bear the costs of suit.”
Yesterday, the councillors now in possession of a written court order following Bere’s judgment in the same matter last month, held a meeting to “map the way forward”.