Suspended town clerk accused of stealing council vehicle
Johnsias Mutonhori – [email protected]
SUSPENDED Gweru City Council (GCC) town clerk Mr Vakai Douglas Chikwekwe is accused of illegally taking his employer’s brand new vehicle, a Nissan Navara in violation of a council resolution.
Mr Chikwekwe was recently suspended following his arrest by the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) for allegedly violating tender procedures resulting in companies Sheasham, Casas and Wackdrive winning tenders to service Mkoba 21 and Randolph suburbs.
Soon after his arrest, GCC served Mr Chikwekwe with a suspension letter stating reasons, some of which include failure to coordinate, monitor and supervise all departments thereby resulting in employees working in silos and consequently affecting service delivery.
The council also stated that there was negligence of duty on Mr Chikwekwe’s part, which resulted in the council being prejudiced financially.
Mr Chikwekwe has since appeared in court facing a charge of criminal abuse of office and was released on $100 000 bail. The matter is still pending.
In a full council meeting on Wednesday, Gweru councillors accused management of sympathising with Mr Chikwekwe by allowing him to continue using his official vehicle despite a council resolution prohibiting him.
They resolved that the car should be repossessed from Mr Chikwekwe pending the outcome of the court case and his disciplinary hearing before a special committee of inquiry. Gweru Mayor Councillor Hamutendi Kombayi accused council management of defying the resolution passed by council to suspend Chikwekwe without pay.
“What the suspended town clerk did was theft because we passed a resolution to suspend him without pay and we did so as council. Why can’t modalities be put in place to recover that car? To date, nothing has been done and we don’t even have a CRB number from the police including what is happening from the management side,” he said.
“At this moment let me call upon the chamber secretary and the human resources manager to go to the police and report accordingly. We want proper documentation, we want the CRB number from the police and ZACC case number to be presented before the council.”
Ward 11 Councillor Albert Chirau said Mr Chikwekwe is abusing the ratepayers’ money.
“Mr Chikwekwe must surrender that vehicle immediately. It’s a service delivery vehicle that is expected to be used for council business, but right now we are hearing that he fled to Gokwe,” he said.
“What he did is unlawful and it is an act of theft since no resolution was passed allowing him to continue using that car, which belongs to the council.”
Ward 15 Councillor Trust Chineni quizzed why council management is allowing Mr Chikwekwe to continue using the car yet they swiftly acted when former mayor Josiah Makombe was recalled and repossessed his mayoral car.
“When Councillor Makombe who was then mayor was recalled sometime in 2021, he took a council vehicle with him as part of his benefits, but council acted and recovered the car. The same should be done with Mr Chikwekwe,” he said.
GCC acting town clerk, Mr Livingstone Churu said: “We approached the police, but they advised us that they could not treat the matter as a theft case. They said it is a labour dispute.”
Mr Chikwekwe said council actually owes him a Toyota Fortuner which was approved by the Cabinet.
“It is the council which owes me a US$83 000 Toyota Fortuner, a car which was approved by the Cabinet, but they were reluctant to buy me that car. I don’t even understand the logic of accusing me of stealing a US$30 000 car yet they owe me and US$83 000 Toyota Fortuner,” he said.
“Former council directors Shingirai Tigere and Robson Manetsa went away with council vehicles, but the councillors are not saying anything. The mayor Councillor Kombayi is also abusing council vehicles by using them for personal mining errands, but no one is raising it.”
Last month Mr Chikwekwe through his lawyer Admire Rubaya challenged his suspension arguing that he was just a council employee with no power to award any tender.
He argued that it was a collective decision by the council during a special council meeting.
Mr Chikwekwe claimed that his arrest is an abuse of the criminal justice system by political players for political expedience.
He said he had no role in the signing and awarding of the tenders as it was done by his predecessors.
Mr Chikwekwe also queried the decision to exonerate Mr Makombe who allegedly signed as the council representative.