The MDC-T says it will investigate its Chitungwiza mayor Philip Mutoti after residents approached the main opposition party to register their complaints over his alleged “dictatorial tendencies” that have seen him barring residents’ associations from council meetings.Mutoti also stands accused of owning vast tracts of land in the dormitory town, a development that has fuelled calls among residents for investigations into the conduct of council.
The Chitungwiza mayor recently admitted owning the land in question with the approval of Local Government minister Ignatius Chombo. On February 5 and March 31, the MDC-T-led council barred members of the Chitungwiza Residents’ Trust (Chitrest) from attending a full council meeting. Irked by the development, Chitrest officials approached MDC-T secretary for Local Government Eddie Cross, who confirmed meeting the residents’ representatives in an interview with NewsDay.
Cross said that after the meeting, they would institute investigations into Mutoti’s conduct, saying they were treating the situation in Chitungwiza as “an emergency”. “I had a constructive meeting with Chitrest officials and I reported back to the leadership of the party on the situation in Chitungwiza which represents an emergency. We will conduct an investigation into reports from the residents’ association and staff on some of the activities of the council,” Cross said.
“We intend to mount a major exercise in Chitungwiza. There is need for overall re-appraisal of how the council is functioning. As a party, we are saying that we have to holistically address the situation in Chitungwiza.”
Cross said Chitungwiza topped the list of local authorities that required “radical surgery”.
“We have a number of councils that are in deep trouble and I think the most affected is Chitungwiza which requires radical surgery,” he said.
The Harare Metropolitan Residents’ Forum (HamRef) condemned Mutoti’s alleged conduct, saying he was depriving residents of their right to fully participate in issues affecting their welfare. “Section 87 (1) read together with 87 (2) of the Urban Councils Act Chapter 29:15 states that every council meeting shall be open to the public and the Press. The fact that Chitrest representatives were barred from attending a full council meeting speaks volumes about the calibre of Chitungwiza councillors and the mayor, Philip Mutoti,” HamRef chairperson Simbarashe Moyo said.
“Even if there is not enough space in the council chambers, members of the public, who include Chitrest, must be allowed to observe through open windows. Thus the issue of space must never be used to deny the residents of their legally guaranteed right to observe council meetings.”
Chitrest director Marvelous Khumalo said: “We condemn such negative acts in a democratic society. Residents are going to act against such local authorities.”Mutoti could not be reached for comment yesterday. (Chitrest)