By Farai Dauramanzi and Harry Davies
After a year of political and legal bickering, councillors voted on 3rd of August to cancel former banker James Mushore’s contract as Town Clerk for Harare. The decision was prompted by a $165,000 salary debt owed to Mushore, who never physically took office, and a desire to move on from a stalemate between the MDC council and the Zanu PF minister of Local Government, Saviour Kasukuwere.
Mushore was given a two year contract starting April last year. His appointment to this powerful post by the MDC council was promptly rescinded by Kasukuwere, who cited a failure to follow a procedure that included his review of shortlisted candidates.
A long political and legal battle ensued, with various applications being made in the courts. Meanwhile, Zanu PF-appointed Josephine Ncube continued to hold the reins in council’s administrative arm – a fact that many blame for the continued decline in service delivery in Harare.
Speaking to Harare News, Mayor Manyenyeni expressed dismay that politics had gotten in the way of a good decision.
“We are being forced to cancel the contract as Zanu PF does not want James Mushore at Town House. Council has been grounded over the matter, and purely out of expediency we are having to take this route. We have been denied the opportunity to improve council administration,” said the Mayor.
Mushore meanwhile is demanding his $165,000 salary arrears. He told Harare News that he has spent “a great deal of money in legal fees” fighting his suspension. “I did no wrong… I have availed my services but the City chose to lock me out of my office. Ratepayers should focus on getting a class action together to have the Urban Councils Act aligned to the constitution. This would stop the minister from interfering with the running of urban councils,” he said.
Mushore added that he is yet to receive formal notice of his contract being cancelled. “You will be aware that there are laws that need to be followed in labour matters. Should the City breach these laws, I will sue. The reason why Kasukuwere did not want me to do the job is that he knew that I would do it properly particularly in rooting out corrupt employees and cancelling corrupt contracts. This is how he and previous government ministers in this portfolio have been able to amass vast property portfolios… If I had been allowed to do the job with the assistance of Mayor Manyenyeni, who is an honest and straight forward man, we would have made a start on fixing our City.”
Deputy Mayor Enock Mupamawonde who presided over the full council meeting that adopted the resolution said that council could not continue to operate without a substantive head.
“The Town Clerk position is so critical that City of Harare cannot wait for two years without a substantive CEO… Council would have loved him (Mushore) in the office as per our recruitment process, procedure, and final decision within the spirit of the new constitutional devolution,” said the Deputy Mayor.
Speaking for Harare Residents Trust (HRT) Sharon Magodyo said that residents are disgruntled with the state of affairs.
“Public funds are going to be used to pay off an outgoing Town Clerk who has been forced to sit at home…council is paying two people for the same post,” complained Magodyo, adding that councillors should have handled the appointment process better.