On 28 July the Local Government Laws Amendment Bill passed into law.
The amended bill gives power to the Minister of Local Government, Saviour Kasukuwere, to suspend elected council officials. Minister Kasukuwere was a leading proponent of the bill, and the subsequent fast-tracking of its ratification against a backdrop of protest from legal experts and residents associations.
Of particular concern was the public consultative meeting for Harare held at Rainbow Towers on 16 June which was marred by violence as Zanu PF supporters, allegedly bussed in from rural areas, upset proceedings and undermined any opposition to the bill. The meeting descended into violence, with two residents from Harare West, who attended to argue against the legislation, ending up in hospital.
Speaking to Harare News, Zimbabwe Lawyer’s for Human rights (ZLHR) programme manager Mr Dzimbabwe Chimbga says this bill is problematic in that it runs contrary to the constitution, which describes a devolution of power, a move away from central government.
“The amendment does not offer a holistic focus in addressing the issues at hand which is around the urban council, rather it appears to be aimed at the removal of the mayor. This is not the correct way of amending subsidiary laws as only one area is being looked at ignoring the rest of the bill , it is problematic. The real issue for residents is around devolution of power.” said Chimbga
Sharon Magodyo of Harare Residents Trust told Harare News that the amendments were at odds with the constitutional provisions that allow urban councils to be independent and to implement decisions affecting them without outside interference, including from the minister or the Urban Local Board (for Urban Councils).
“The Minister failed to consult residents and other important stakeholders on the drafting of the bill. … The bill did not follow the correct procedures, the Minister rushed to place the bill in order to get rid of the Mayor of Harare, and the Gweru Councillors. The bill sought to shield the acts of the Minister that he failed to follow the proper procedures of suspending the Mayor without an Act of Parliament according to Section 265 of the Constitution,” said Magodyo.
Mayor Manyenyeni, whose job is directly on the line under the new law, said that the bill and the manner in which is passed was not in line with serving the people.
“There are better ways to serve the residents than to traumatise elected officials,” he said.
The full effects of the amended law will only become clear over time, however given the party-political focus of the new ministerial powers, it is unlikely to aid Harare’s failing service delivery. Many Hararians were shocked at how quickly power shifted hands, and are worried about the future of the City, which is all but out of their control.
“Zanu PF owns Harare now. We can vote for whichever councillor we want, but they can’t act independently, they can’t make meaningful decisions that oppose what the minister wants. I’m honestly so disappointed,” said a business owner in Newlands.
Image: Town House