Councillors hold town clerk hostage

Patrick Chitumba, Midlands Bureau Chief
FIVE Gokwe town councillors have been reported to the police for allegedly holding hostage the town chairperson, town secretary and management for about an hour on Friday demanding the suspension of the town secretary for alleged incompetence.

The councillors Davison Mhlanga, Davis Taruvinga, Faustino Mapfunde, Duncan Nyamukasa and Manuel Mafa allegedly ordered a security guard at town house to lock the gate so that the chairperson Clr Ester Senga, town secretary Ms Melania Mandeya and her management team would not leave the premises after a special full council meeting.

The councillors were allegedly unhappy that Clr Senga’s had refused to write a letter suspending Ms Mandeya.

Both Ms Mandeya and Clr Senga confirmed the incident which they said occurred at around 4PM on Friday.

They said they were forced to sit in their vehicles and only left the town house after police arrived before a formal criminal report was made.

Clr Senga said it was unfortunate that her fellow councillors resorted to holding them hostage because of differences in applying the law.

She said they held a special full council meeting on Friday during which they looked at the audit committee report.

“After the presentation of the audit committee, I called for a debate and they all rushed to wanting to propose the suspension of the town secretary. I told them we were going to have a debate as per the rules and regulations guiding full council meetings,” said Clr Senga.

She said one of the councillors recommended that there be a forensic audit on council finances.

“I told them that we are having financial problems and council is in salary arrears and can’t afford to pay a company that will do the forensic audit.

“They then ordered me to write Ms Mandeya a suspension letter. I told them I needed substantial evidence for her suspension because a suspension letter is not driven by emotions but by facts. I told them there was supposed to be a board set up to investigate the town secretary and using the board’s recommendation we could suspend her and they started booing me,” said Clr Senga.

She said as the councillors continued to boo her she adjourned the meeting.

Clr Senga said the five councillors ordered a security guard to lock the gate so that the town secretary and management would not leave until the suspension letter had been written.

“For an hour the gate was locked and we sat in our vehicles afraid because the councillors were then joined by a group of people who were hurling insults at management and the town secretary. The police were called and the gate was opened after one hour,” she said.

Ms Mandeya said the incident was unfortunate.

“The matter was reported to the police and we stand guided by the law enforcement agents and what will happen to the councillors I don’t know,” she said.

Clr Mhlanga refused to comment saying the matter was before the police.

Acting Midlands provincial police spokesperson Assistant Inspector Ethel Mukwende could not be reached for comment as she was said to be out of office while her mobile phone went unanswered.

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