Byo deputy mayor, 4 councillors suspended ‘TYSON’ WIELDS AXE AT BCC
THE deputy mayor of Bulawayo, Councillor Gift Banda, and four other councillors were yesterday suspended by the Minister of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing, Cde Saviour Kasukuwere, over a raft of allegations involving underhand dealings and rampant corruption.
In a move aimed at weeding out the rot within the Bulawayo City Council, Cde Kasukuwere suspended Clr Banda together with Clrs Charles Moyo (Ward nine), Mzama Dube (Ward 25), Reuben Matengu (Ward 21) and James Sithole (Ward seven) during a meeting he held with city fathers in council chambers.
The suspensions came in the wake of revelations that the local authority is owed more than $500 000 in illegal land deals involving councillors who have been accummulating vast tracts of land at the expense of the people.
An independent tribunal will be constituted in the next two weeks to look into the five suspended councillors’ matter
There were also reports that the BCC was under the control of a clique of so-called powerful councillors with no respect for management and staff and who resort to threats to push through their decisions.
Clr Banda has been in the eye of a storm regarding a number of corruption allegations including the purchase of a piece of land at Ascot Race Course for the construction of town houses.
He bought the 3,5 hectares of land for a paltry $130 000 in a move which raised eyebrows and the ire of residents associations and pressure groups.
Sources at the local authority alleged the land was supposed to cost about three times more.
Cde Kasukuwere revealed that only five out of the city’s 29 councillors were cleared of corruption allegations.
The councillors who came out clean include the Mayor, Clr Martin Moyo (Ward three), Clr Monica Lubimbi (Ward 29), Clr Concilia Mlalazi (Ward 18) and Clr Lot Siziba (Ward 13).
The other 24 councillors are expected to appear before a tribunal on a date to be announced.
According to Cde Kasukuwere, councillors owed the local authority over $500 000 in illegal land deals indicating that the five who were suspended were just a tip of the iceberg.
“The report shows that most councillors in Bulawayo have come in to accumulate stands at the expense of the people they serve.
“It seems councillors think that they have the right to every property that is available.
“Councillors have been allocated land for housing, public convenience, open space, agricultural land, commercial space, school and crèche stands, flea market stands and brick moulding zones. To make matters worse, most councillors have not made an effort to pay for the land resulting in councillors owing over half a million dollars on the property they have acquired,” said Cde Kasukuwere.
He said an investigation team had also uncovered irregularities within the tendering system (inclusive of the Terracotta deal for the rehabilitation of Egodini bus terminus) where contracts are changed to suit the contractor not the city.
The Minister said he had been forced to intervene as previous attempts to warn councillors had proved fruitless.
“Council has awarded a tender that is talking of 40, 55 and 99 year leases whereas the Management of Urban State lands recommends nine and the Government itself does not give leases in urban areas for more than 40 years. A 99-year lease is three generations or 18 councils.
“I will be leaving my officials to deal with the specific issues. They will help the BCC to come up with a recovery matrix. I’ve been watching Bulawayo but when a council does not operate within the parameters of our laws, then it’s my constitutional duty to intervene and that is why I’m here today,” said Cde Kasukuwere.
He said they will be approaching the Law Society of Zimbabwe which will provide names of lawyers who will sit in the independent tribunal to look into the five councillors’ matter.
The tribunal will be announced in the next two weeks.
“I must warn the other councillors that we’re not saying they’re not corrupt but these five are just the top five. The others will still have to defend their cases but we won’t be necessarily suspending them.
“Council management should also be warned that the report is clear on their corrupt activities but I cannot deal with them directly, it’s now up to the councillors to deal with them because my mandate is to deal with councillors and management falls under them,” said Cde Kasukuwere.
The Minister bemoaned the fact that the BCC had its last audit carried out in 2012 indicating that this was not surprising as it was clear that the local authority had a lot to hide.
He immediately ordered the local authority to bring their audit to date or face the wrath of the law.
“There’s an element of conspiracy in council. Although councillors recuse themselves from meetings, their influence is still present resulting in wrong decisions being made.
“Some councillors have been threatened and no action is taken by the mayor implying that he may also be under threat.
“Council appears to be under the control of a clique of so-called powerful councillors with the others simply rubber stamping bad decisions. Councillors don’t have respect for management and the staff of council and resort to threats,” fumed Cde Kasukuwere.
The Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association (BPRA) initially raised the red flag over the rate at which councillors were allegedly grabbing land in the city leading to the Government sending an investigation team to get to the bottom of the matter.
The team was expected to investigate circumstances surrounding the sale of the Ascot Race Course piece of land to Clr Banda.
Clr Banda was also in the eye of a storm regarding the upgrading of the Egodini bus terminus amid allegations that the deputy mayor was linked to the company- Terracotta- which had been awarded the $60 million project.
Two other councillors, Sithole and Charles Moyo were also accused of corruptly purchasing land for town houses at Parklands worth $184 000 and $112 000 respectively.
Minister Saviour Kasukuwere Clr Gift Banda