The Douglas Mwonzora-led MDC-T party recently recalled three City of Gweru councillors for allegedly undermining the mayor of the city and the council leadership.
The three councillors — Cleopas Shiri from Ward 5 and was also deputy mayor, Martin Chivhoko (Ward 4) and John Manyundwa (Ward 18) — were also said to be no longer members of the party.
Mwonzora said the other reason they were recalled was that they were now members of the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) party led by Nelson Chamisa.
But, it emerged this week that their recall was triggered by a fierce fight between the MDC-T and CCC councillors for out of town trips, where hefty allowances are paid out.
One of the expelled councillors, Chivhoko, told Business Times that the MDC-T camp did not want to share out of town trips with CCC councillors and wanted to “grab every trip”.
He said they were expelled as they objected to the elbowing of CCC councillors from out of town trips.
It is also understood that the three expelled councillors and others objected to the proposal to accord President Emmerson Mnangagwa Freedom of the City status, which had been proposed by MDC T councillors led by mayor Kombayi.
“The contentious issue behind the recall was that of trips, where these were supposed to be shared equally, as you know councillors do not earn much in terms of the monthly allowances from the government.
“It is one of the main reasons there was such squabbling and fighting within the council,” Chivhoko said.
He added: “I can tell you that under the old dispensation [former mayor and current Ward 2 councillor Josiah Makombe of the CCC party], the allocation of trips to councillors was done in a fair manner, with the Mwonzora clique also benefitting. We were working well and there was harmony.”
When the current mayor [Kombayi] assumed office, there was now reluctance to share the out-of-town trips with CCC councillors.”
Chivhoko said the current mayor’s advisers were not willing to “share” the trips with colleagues from the CCC group.
“The problem is the current mayor’s advisers, they do not advise him well as they are only concerned about travelling only. They do not want to share trips with others as was done by the former mayor (Makombe), who would recognise councillors from the other camp,” Chivhoko said.
He said the other cause for the recall was over the refusal by CCC councillors to accord President Emmerson Mnangagwa Freedom of the City status, which had been proposed by MDC-T councillors led by the mayor.
The proposal was shot down by some councillors, allegedly from the CCC party.
Nine councillors voted against the motion while eight, believed to be from MDC-T, were in favour.
The MDC-T camp was left unhappy with the result and sought to exact revenge on CCC councillors, according to Chivhoko, who added that Kombayi did not like criticism.
“The mayor does not want people who are vocal. He wants those that bootlick him. That is where the other issue was.”
But, the MDC T, which recalled the three councillors, said they were expelled and removed from council because of insubordination and incompetence, not on political grounds.
Defending the recalls while speaking on 98.4FM current affairs programme ‘Inside Politics’ recently, Mwonzora said: “These three councillors were posing a menace or a danger to service delivery in Gweru. They were undermining the mayor, they were undermining the leadership of council and things were becoming very difficult in Gweru.
“So, we had to act and we do not regret it at all, if there is anybody to blame, it is themselves the councillors.”
He said the three councillors were also recalled because they were no longer members of the MDC T party.
“They were careless, they were negligent in their dealings and more importantly I don’t think the citizens of Gweru will miss them because they have certain misdeeds that we do not want to share here on air because they are not here to defend themselves.
“If need be, we can advise the citizens of Gweru that it was in their best interests that we removed these people.”
Contacted to respond to allegations raised against him and his party by the recalled councillors, Kombayi declined to comment saying Mwonzora already addressed the issue.
Meanwhile, Gweru residents have expressed disappointment that councillors were fighting and being recalled over trip allowances.
Cornelia Selipiwe, the executive director of the Gweru Residents and Ratepayers Association told Business Times that the bickering over trips was derailing service delivery.
“If this is true those councillors are fighting over trips at the expense of service delivery then it means we are in the wrong hands as residents because the issue of trips is a petty issue.
“If you are going to recall someone or cause someone to be recalled it should be based on their performance in terms of their service delivery or in terms of their mandate as a councillor,” Selipiwe said.
He said that there were councillors who were in the council to enrich them at the expense of service delivery.
“We have a lot of challenges that we are facing, including the issue of water. It’s a very critical issue that we expect the local authority to deal with but unfortunately councillors have their focus on other things.
This issue of fighting over trips based on who is leading, it’s not right, travelling allowances should be a background issue.”
Selipiwe said residents expected that the next Gweru mayor should not be involved in the factional fights over trips and allowances, and eliminate the “chasing” and “tugging” currently happening within the local authority.
Gweru City Council has for long been riddled with serious friction and elbowing between the MDC T and CCC primarily over the control of the local authority.
Factional politics marred the polls held on Monday to elect a new deputy mayor.
Two CCC councillors were expelled from the council chambers before elections for “improper dressing” and the polls went on to be won by Ward 9 councillor Edison Kurebgaseka, of the MDC-T.
Kurebgaseka’s election to deputy mayor has left the MDC-T in control of the local authority.