By Tafadzwa Muranganwa
Harare Metropolitan Residents Forum (HAMREF) says it is worried by the recent appointment of an advisory board for Harare at a time when the government is about to disburse devolution funds.
Minister of State for Harare Metropolitan Provincial Olive Chidawu recently named a 19 member board which he said would advise on various issues, including water and sanitation and infrastructural development in the city.
According to HAMREF, the move is not only suspicious but also unconstitutional as there are many unanswered questions.
“Harare Metropolitan Residents Forum (HAMREF) notes with concern the appointment of the advisory board by the central government as dates for the Harare Devolution Conference draws close.
“What roles will the board have which do not duplicate the roles of Metropolitan Council as defined in the Constitution of Zimbabwe,” HAMREF said.
HAMREF which is a grouping of various residents associations in Harare said it was also not clear as to who will meet the allowances for the advisory board.
“The appointment takes place coincidentally when the government has announced disbursement of devolution money.
“Questions on where the advisory board draws its allowances from and the burden on tax-payers remain unanswered. Is it the City of Harare that pays for allowances?
The residents’ organisation also highlighted that it is surprised that a Minister of State is making appointments outside his constitutional mandate.
“HAMREF has for long questioned the relevance of the position of Provincial Minister of State considering that Chapter 14 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe clearly lays the foundation for the structure and institutions that should support devolution”.
Speaking on the same issues secretary for local government and devolution in MDC Clifford Hlatshwayo said the central government should not interfere with activities of local authorities.
“Central government interference in local authorities’ work is against the constitution and the spirit of devolution. We need to promote the independence of councils.
“The constitution states that councils are run by elected officials who are councillors,” said Hlatshwayo.
According to constitutional law expert James Tsabora, there is no legal provision under the Urban Councils Act to uphold the appointment of an advisory board for a metropolitan province.
“While I am not much aware of the development, the action of the minister of state is illegal as it is not within the constitution and in the Urban Councils Act, the minister of state has no power but the minister of local government.
“So what the minister of state is doing amounts to interference whilst his position has no place in the constitution,” said Tsabora.