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Zim mayor faces probe over Old Mutual

Oct 02 2012 13:24 Malcom Sharara, Fin24’s correspondent in Zimbabwe

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Their own piece of pie

 
Harare - Old Mutual [JSE:OML] and its subsidiary CABS might lose 3 000 residential stands in Zimbabwe over the chairperson’s “compromised" position.
 
Zimbabwe’s Local Government, Rural and Urban Development Minister Ignatius Chombo has ordered the reversal of the deal which saw Old Mutual being awarded the 3 000 stands.
 
The minister has since appointed a team to probe Harare mayor Muchadeyi Masunda on allegations of conflict of interest in awarding the residential stands to CABS and Old Mutual, companies he chairs.
 
Commenting on the allegations, Masunda said on taking office as mayor in July 2008 he made a full disclosure of all his interests to the city council.
 
"In addition, I always recused myself from any meeting where there could be any conflict of interest, however remote that possibility may be," said Masunda.
 
Analsysts say even if the mayor says he followed rules, made a full disclosure of all outside interests and recused himself from any meeting where there could be conflict of interest, his position still yields fertile ground for corruption, nepotism and other vices.
 
Chombo said by allotting the stands to CABS and Old Mutual, Masunda was "double dipping" since he was the board chair for both. Masunda had a 60% stake in John Sisk, the company subcontracted to service the stands.
 
The fact that Masunda was appointed by the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) makes things worse because the responsible minister is from Zanu-PF. Chomo has clashed with all MDC-T mayors ever since they took office in almost all towns and cities.
 
There is a chance that the charges against Masunda are spurious and politically motivated, and that they could be a strategy to dilute MDC power in urban constituencies that the party gained from 2000.

The minister has clashed with Masunda ever since the latter was appointed. This year alone, Masunda disagreed with the minister over the demolition of 58 Mbare hostels (Harare’s oldest suburb). Chombo wanted to have the hostels demolished, while Masunda wanted the apartments to be spruced up for the city’s single people.
 
In December 2011 the minister rejected a request by the Harare mayor to replace special interest councillors appointed in 2008. Masunda wrote to Chombo, expressing disappointment over what he considered the poor performance of some special interest councillors appointed by the minister.

He said the councillors had not made any meaningful impact in either councils or the standing committees on which they had served since July 2008, when he first started working with them.
 
Last year again The Zimbabwean newspaper reported that Zanu-PF had devised a plan to push the mayor out of office, saying he was frustrating their efforts to regain control of the capital ahead of the next general elections.

The party allegedly feared Masunda was heavily involved in a housing project in Kuwadzana that could give political leverage to the rival MDC-T.
 
The party wanted Chombo to charge Masunda with incompetence or another form of dereliction of duty and then fire him.

Chombo has already fired or suspended mayors and councillors from Harare, Chitungwiza, Chinhoyi, Mutare, Bindura, Gwanda and Rusape on allegations of misconduct and maladministration – none of which have been proven in court.
 
Timeline of Masunda’s clashes with Chombo
 
August 2012: Chombo overrides Harare Council on Zimbabwe Mall permit
August 2012:  Chombo blocks Masunda’s bid to honour Mujuru
July 2012: Chombo urges Masunda-led council to revisit refuse-trucks tender
 
Chombo’s other mayoral battles
 
April 2003 - Chombo suspends MDC mayor Elias Mudzuri, without giving reasons 
Jan 2012 - Chombo suspends Mutare mayor Brian James for misconduct 

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