Nqobile Tshili, Chronicle Reporter
THE Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) has quizzed Bulawayo City Council managers and the Mayor Councillor Solomon Mguni as it probes alleged corruption in the sale of stands as well as in procurement processes.
The investigating team arrived in Bulawayo on Wednesday to start the investigations.
The Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association (BPRA) raised a red flag in what it believed was undue distribution of land to council officials.
Among others, the residents pressure group queried how the mayor was offered a plot in Rangemore and questioned the proposed allocation of a stand to Bulawayo Town Clerk Mr Christopher Dube, under his conditions of service, ahead of the renewal of his contract.
The anti-graft team met with residents associations among other civil society organisations to kick-start the investigations.
The Zacc team is said to have started questioning council officials on Thursday and continued yesterday.
The investigators are said to have asked for some paperwork on council resolutions.
Cllr Mguni has been in the spotlight after council offered him a plot in Rangemore at a time when some urban councils elsewhere across the country are accused of illegal parcelling of land among other corruption activities.
Cllr Mguni said the Zacc team was not just investigating what residents perceived as irregular allocation of land but the investigation was all encompassing.
“It was basically about prevention of corruption by checking systems compliance to combat corruption. They touched on a number of issues that affect service delivery such as land sales, housing, procurement, health and water provision which affect the image of the city,” said Cllr Mguni.
He said the council was happy to receive the anti-graft commission in the city.
“We have now been given audience unlike before where people were relying on social media. Now we have an independent arm of Government coming in to get first hand information, to gather facts and not to conclude on speculations from social media users and outsiders. Whatever decision is going to be made is from an informed position and we also have been given an opportunity to give our side of the story,” he said.
Mr Dube said: “I can’t comment on Zacc investigations and outcomes of such investigations. May you kindly seek a comment from Zacc, it has its communication protocols and I can’t be seen to be talking on their behalf.”
Zacc spokesperson Commissioner John Makamure said it was too early to comment on the outcomes of the investigations.
“Investigations continue. The commission cannot share findings when investigations are yet to be completed,” said Comm Makamure.
Sources within council said the Zacc team interviewed not just the mayor and town clerk but others as well.
“They engaged all the heads of departments and senior managers in their investigations. It was not a witch hunt but they were professional in their investigations. We hope to hear the outcomes of their investigations soon,” said the source.
BPRA coordinator Mr Emmanuel Ndlovu said council’s bid to offer the Town Clerk another stand in the upmarket Selbourne Park suburb was unreasonable and ridiculous.
Mr Dube’s four-year contract is set to expire on September 30 but council has renewed it by another four years.
“As residents we are worried about the terms and conditions of renewal of the Town Clerk’s contract. Council was proposing to offer him 2,4 hectares at Selbourne Park adjacent to another property that he got from the same suburb when his contract commenced. We are saying this is a ridiculous endeavour and it is not reasonable to make those demands as part of his conditions of service,” said Mr Ndlovu.
“However, when Zacc went to investigate they discovered that the council has since reversed it.”
According to an extract of the council minutes dated August 7, 2020, the proposed conditions of service for the Town Clerk, in his renewed contract of employment effective October 1, 2020, were deliberated on by the General Purposes committees at its meeting held on July 29.
The committee resolved to recommend to council that the Town Clerk be offered a commercial stand, specifically Stand No. 14661 measuring 2,4407 hectares in Selbourne Park. The value of the stand was not stated.
The piece of land is adjacent to Stand No. 14662 which Mr Dube was offered as part of conditions of service in his initial contract, which is set to expire on September 30.
It was also resolved that the Town Clerk should be offered to buy his official vehicle at 25 percent of the netbook value at the end of his contract or termination through mutual agreement or for any other reason before it naturally comes to an end.
“However, because of the prevailing adverse economic conditions, which may make it difficult for council to buy another car for him, the Town Clerk proposed that he be offered one of the Bulawayo Water and Sewerage Services Improvement Project (BWSSIP) project vehicles, an Isuzu twin cab truck at 25 percent netbook value considering that the project would have been completed by end of 2021,” read the council minutes.
The committee resolved that the report on the conditions of service proposed by the Town Clerk be deferred to a later date to allow councillors to have time to digest the matter.
Mr Ndlovu, on behalf of BPRA, recently wrote a letter to the BCC’s Town Lands and Planning Committee venting his organisation’s anger at the council’s decision to offer Mr Dube the commercial stand, arguing that he already had one, which he was offered in his initial contract.
“We are very disturbed and concerned with this growing trend of council officials being given land when more than 121 000 residents remain on the council housing waiting list with no prospects of getting any land. To us, this comes across as criminal abuse of office as defined in section 174 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act,” he said.
“We are of the view that there has been a noticeable trend between the Town Clerk and the Mayor doing each other favours at least reciprocal, one after the other.”
Mr Ndlovu said residents felt there was a need for the Town Clerk and the Mayor to declare what they already own in line with the Declaration of Assets and Interests Policy adopted by BCC and Section 198 of the Constitution. — @nqotshili