Angry residents and vendors yesterday staged a demonstration at Harare City Council (HCC)’s offices, protesting against alleged corruption and abuse of funds by the local authority’s officials.
The protest — organised by various residents and vendors organisations, including National Vendors Union of Zimbabwe — comes after a damning Local Government ministry audit report revealed gross misappropriation and abuse of funds by the city’s management who awarded themselves hefty and unbudgeted performance bonuses and allowances.
The protesters — who were quickly dispersed by riot police — handed Harare mayor, Bernard Manyenyeni, a petition in which they demanded action over the matters raised, before November 31.
Police arrested George Makoni of the Centre for Community Development in Zimbabwe (CCDZ) during the protests and charged him with criminal nuisance. Makoni was released yesterday evening after paying a $10 admission a guilt fine.
The protesters said in the petition: “The audit by the ministry of Local Government Public Works and National Housing has revealed shocking levels of corruption and abuse of public office by council management.”
The audit revealed that nine council executives were overpaid their retrenchment packages by $1,2 million while also receiving unbudgeted bonuses amounting to more than $600 000.
The report also exposed that in the city’s 2015 and 2016 budgets, there was no mention of the salaries and allowances for the executive managers.
The demonstrators argue that the HCC was failing to provide key services such as clean water yet management was pocketing large sums in salaries and allowances.
“We implore you to urgently address the following key demands. That you cause an investigation into the corrupt allocation and politicisation of residential stands by the City of Harare by November 31, 2016.”
“That you come up with a plan of action to address poor service delivery in Harare with respect to water provision, refuse collection, sewer reticulation, health services, and rehabilitation of roads by November 31, 2016,” they said in the petition.
The report indicated that 40 executives received education allowances amounting to tens of thousands of dollars as well as holiday leave allowances of more than $300 000.
It also revealed that $282 000 was transferred into retrenched executive managers bank accounts from HCC’s Beer Levy and Estates account outside of employment costs.
“You must address the problem in which the City of Harare senior management continues to receive hefty salaries (in breach of cabinet directive issued in 2014) and other expense of service delivery by 31st November 2016. The City of Harare addresses the welfare of vendors Harare municipal police must cease to harass vendors and allow them to conduct their business without hindrance. You must urgently address the plight of citizens whose houses were recently demolished by City of Harare.”
Manyenyeni said he was going to respond to concerns raised in the petition.
“We will engage the leaders of these organisations. We are elected to be on these positions to provide service to residents. For salaries, we also need to engage payments processing firms to deal with our salary problems,” he said.
Recently, residents petitioned the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission to investigate the rot at the local authority.
The residents argue that HCC cannot afford luxuries such as awarding holiday allowances given the current state of poor service delivery.