The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) is moving to forestall Local Government Minister Saviour Kasukuwere’s attempts to weaken its influence on the remaining urban strongholds under its dominion as the country’s political parties brace for a gruelling encounter at the 2018 general elections
Since his appointment to the ZANU-PF commissariat and as Minister of Local Government, Kasukuwere has wreaked havoc in urban areas that are still dominated by the MDC-T, at times in ways criticised as unconstitutional.
So far, he has scored a succession of victories in his war with the MDC-T, having dismissed the entire Gweru council and shaken the Mutare municipality to the core.
Only last week, he seemed to have succeeded in blocking the appointment of City of Harare town clerk, James Mushore.
In a bid to silence MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai, Kasukuwere last week went for the jugular, threatening to evict the former trade unionist from a government mansion in Highlands, Harare, if he fails to influence his party members to capitulate to his demands at Town House.
While Tsvangirai’s spokesperson this week denied any eviction threats against his boss, MDC-T insiders said Kasukuwere’s threats had resulted in jostling within the party.
Tsvangirai has found his entire MDC-T national executive defiantly resolute in supporting the appointment of Mushore.
Radicals in the MDC-T have now successfully cajoled their leadership to confront Kasukuwere. The MDC-T dominates the Harare City Council which employed Mushore without Kasukuwere’s approval, triggering the confrontation which saw the Local Government Minister suspending mayor, Bernard Manyenyeni.
The Financial Gazette can now report that Tsvangirai has since somersaulted and given in to pressure from his lieutenants, led by the now-increasingly aggressive secretary general, Douglas Mwonzora.
Sources said the country’s main opposition party tasked Mwonzora last week to lead an all-out assault on Kasukuwere in the battle to retain control of Harare. Mwonzora’s first action was to call for a meeting of the party’s top brass which was held at the MDC-T headquarters on Saturday.
The meeting was meant to discuss several issues, among them Mushore’s appointment and the audits which Kasukuwere has ordered in Harare, Bulawayo and Chitungwiza.
The meeting, the source said, came up with four resolutions: to stand by suspended Manyenyeni, noting Kasukuwere had no power to suspend the mayor; to stand by Mushore’s appointment; to direct acting mayor, Chris Mbanga, to stop victimising Mushore; and to block Kasukuwere’s proposed audit of the City of Harare.
They also resolved to file an urgent Constitutional Court (ConCourt) appeal seeking to repeal at least 12 provisions of the Urban Councils Act (UCA), particularly section 314, which compels councils to consult the Minister of Local Government when making senior appointments and section 114 which gives the minister power to fire mayors.
Both these provisions are inconsistent with the new Constitution, adopted overwhelmingly at a referendum in 2013, and therefore are invalid. They are only applicable when read with the discarded Lancaster House Constitution of 1979, the MDC-T said.
Mwonzora confirmed the development in an interview with the Financial Gazette this week.
“Kasukuwere must be stopped,” he charged, saying he had filed the ConCourt application soon after the Saturday meeting which he chaired.
“I filed the application on behalf of the party. We are asking the court to nullify all the offending provisions of the Urban Councils Act to cover the whole country because we know Kasukuwere’s strategy is to go from municipality to municipality.
After Harare, he plans to go to Chitungwiza and then Bulawayo making spurious allegations against our councillors,” he said.
“The application is now before the court and we are seeking to have about 12 provisions of the Urban Councils Act nullified,” he added.
He also confirmed that he had taken charge of the anti-Kasukuwere crusade.
“I chaired the first meeting on Saturday where we came up with several resolutions. I am happy that everyone in the party is now of the same opinion that we should stand by the appointment of Mushore and that we stand by Manyenyeni.
“The so-called audits which Kasukuwere has ordered will also be blocked. It’s not an audit targeting money or abuse of money but it includes looking at our councillors’ curriculum vitaes, looking at the educational backgrounds of our councillors and their personal suitability. We said no to that. It is our duty as a party to do those assessments.
“We held primary elections and presented them to the electorate and were voted for. Now he says he wants to audit their skills. They can audit the skills of ZANU-PF councillors, not ours. If it was an audit of finances, it can always be done, we have got no problems with that but he should not touch our councillors,” he retorted.
Tsvangirai’s spokesperson, Luke Tamborinyoka, this week appeared to confirm that his boss was now moving with the rest of the party leadership.
“We reiterate our position that Kasukuwere must stop his continued interference with autonomous councils as that is no longer permissible under the new Constitution. President Tsvangirai’s position on the saga at Town House is a matter of public record where he even took it upon himself to chastise the excitable Kasukuwere for his unconstitutional interference in the affairs of an autonomous council,” he said in response to a report in the Financial Gazette last week suggesting that Tsvangirai had been cowed into supporting the dismissal of Mushore by Kasukuwere. Financial Gazette