THE proposed Local Government Bill has been roundly condemned by residents in different parts of the country, amid fears it could be used by the Zanu PF government, particularly Local Government minister Saviour Kasukuwere, to destabilise the opposition MDC-T-led local authorities.
BY NQOBANI NDLOVU/NUNURAI JENA/TATENDA CHITAGU
The Bill seeks to, among other things, provide for the suspension and expulsion of elected council office bearers by the responsible minister.
Bulawayo residents yesterday rejected the Bill, describing it as a Zanu PF project which was anti-people and primitive, before the chairperson of the committee, Fani Phiri, cut short the meeting citing “time constraints”.
Phiri argued the committee wanted to travel to Gweru to hold a similar public hearing in the afternoon, but Bulawayo residents would have none of it, accusing the committee of not being serious after starting yesterday’s meeting late.
The meeting was expected to start at 8:30am and end at 1pm, but it started an hour later, and Phiri’s suggestion to cut short the meeting only sparked the ire of residents, who roundly sang “Into’yenzayo yo, sayizonda, Into’yenzayo asiyithandi (We hate what you are doing, we don’t like it).”
The hearing was held at Nkulumane Hall.
“All we want is a Bill that explains how to remove Mugabe. This Bill is a waste of our time, it’s a Zanu PF thing and as Bulawayo youths, we long rejected Zanu PF and all that it represents,” Mthokozisi Ncube, representing Bulawayo Youths Arise, said.
Former MDC-T legislator, Felix Magalela Sibanda said: “It should be rejected for reasons that it is not an act of re-aligning laws to the Constitution, but a proposal which is vindictive and primate after Kasukuwere lost court cases after attempts to remove elected mayors and councillors.”
Residents were unanimous that Kasukuwere should facilitate the implementation of devolution as provided for in the Constitution.
Gwanda Residents’ Association (GRA) called on residents in Matabeleland South province to reject the Bill it condemned as running against the spirit of constitutionalism.
“We, therefore, view the proposed amendments, which give the minister sweeping powers to decide, who should run our local authorities and how, totally against the spirit of the Constitution we voted for.
“We, therefore, by means of this statement, call upon our parliamentarians to move for the rejection of the proposed Local Government Bill,” Bekezela Maduma Fuzwayo, the GRA spokesperson, said in a statement.
His sentiments were echoed by residents in Chinhoyi, Masvingo and Karoi, who called on legislators to reject the Bill and order its redrafting with a view to minimising the minister’s influence in the running of local authorities.
The residents said the recent suspension of Harare and Gweru mayors by Kasukuwere constituted abuse of ministerial powers.
Chinhoyi Residents’ Association chairperson, Peter Liwanda said the minister should not be empowered to appoint the tribunal because that will compromise the independence of the body.
“The independence of the tribunal comes into question, whereby the majority of members of the tribunal are appointed by the same minister, who would have suspended councillors . . . the tribunal must be appointed by a parliamentary process,” he said.
Residents said the Bill should also give them the opportunity to approach the same tribunal for complaints against certain councillors to ensure transparency in local governance issues.
Community Working Group on Health Masvingo chairman, Entrance Takaidza, said the Bill sought to reverse the gains of the 2013 Constitution.
Masvingo United Residents and Ratepayers’ Alliance (MURRA) director, Anoziva Muguti said: “The government has, thus, developed the Local Authorities Bill with the intention, not to align the Bill with the Constitution, but, on the contrary, to restore ministerial powers the Constitution has abolished.”
Meanwhile, Parliament has succumbed to pressure and agreed to hold public hearings on the Local Government Laws Amendment Bill in Matabeleland North and South next week following an outcry from stakeholders in those regions, who felt hard done by the exclusion.
Public hearings on Bill by the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Local Government, Rural and Urban Development started on Monday and were initially scheduled to end today.
An earlier schedule provided by the portfolio committee had excluded Matabeleland North and South, drawing the ire of activists, opposition political parties and residents from the two provinces.
Phiri, the chairperson of the committee, told Southern Eye yesterday that the two provinces have now been included in the committee’s schedule of the on-going hearings.
“We heard the complaints and the committee is now going to Matabeleland North and South beginning on Monday next week. We will be there the whole of next week,” he said.
Zapu and the Matabeleland Institute for Human Rights (MIHR) had argued that the exclusion of the two provinces was deliberate, smacked of marginalisation and violated Chapter 4 section 56 of the Constitution.