Mayor orders security to assault journos

MISA-Zimbabwe has condemned the attack of two journalists on Thursday by Chitungwiza municipal police on the instructions of the mayor, Philip Mutoti.

Freelance journalists Philimon Jambaya and Edgar Gweshe were beaten up by members of the Chitungwiza municipal police as they were covering a demonstration led by the Chitungwiza Residents Trust (CHITREST) at Chitungwiza municipal offices.

The two scribes were blocked from taking photographs of approximately 60 demonstrators who were protesting against lack of information relating to full council meetings.

Residents had previously been denied access to full council meetings held on 5 February and 31 March 2015.

Jambaya sustained injuries as a result of the attack and he reported the case to St Mary’s police station (RRB-2416660) after being discharged from South Med hospital.

Some of the residents who were at the demonstration said Mutoti incited the attack on the journalists.

“He shouted to the councilors and the police to beat them up. He even said,“imi macouncilors hamuna samba here rekurwisa vanhu ava” (you councilors can you not beat up these people)”.

MISA-Zimbabwe senior programmes officer Nyasha Nyakunu said the attack on journalists was a blow to media freedom.

“We urge authorities and law enforcement agents to respect the role and profession of journalists and to put in place measures that promote the enjoyment of the right to freedom of the press which is guaranteed under section 61 of the Constitution,” said Nyakunu.

“Further, MISA–Zimbabwe reiterates that citizens have a right to access information, including information relating to local governance issues, as a way of promoting accountability at local authority level. The right to access information is guaranteed in Section 62 of Zimbabwe’s Constitution”.

When contacted him Mutoti denied the allegations levelled against him.

He said: “What I know is that the demonstration was meant to challenge the reason why we had not accommodated residents in our offices when we held the full council meeting. The reason is that our gallery is very small and cannot accommodate a large number of people,” he said.

“In fact they were never barred from attending; there might have been a communication breakdown”.

Kombi operators engage council

The newly-formed Zimbabwe Union of Drivers and Conductors is engaging Harare City Council to address congestion and other traffic problems affecting the capital city.

Union President Fredrick Maguramhinga said his organisation aims to be the bridge between council and commuter drivers and conductors with a view of mending relations. “We abide by the by-laws of the city. We want to have a working relationship with council. It is high time we change the approach between the commuter omnibus drivers and conductors and the city traffic enforcers,” he said adding the union has registered over a thousand drivers and conductors who are all willing to follow city by-laws regarding traffic movement.

Kombi drivers and conductors have always been accused of ill treating passengers and disregarding road rules. The majority of city centre traffic accidents have been blamed on the errant behaviour of drivers and their conductors.

Kombi operators have suggested that drivers who break the traffic by-laws should be fined.

Residents threaten demo against council’s water billing system

Harare Residents’ Trust (HRT) has threatened to mobilize city residents and demonstrate against council’s chaotic water billing system amid reports many households are receiving huge bills even though they will have been cut-off over non-payment.

Precious Shumba

HRT director Precious Shumba said the demonstrations will be part of broad strategies used by residents to force council action over the issue. "As part of our multi-pronged approach, we will soon hold demonstrations against council’s billing system which has seen over 1 200 residents being cut–off from water supplies but continue to receive huge “current bills”. The council will never win the hearts and trust of the residents as long as they have this arrogant attitude where they believe in force instead of dialogue and being proactive, responding to the residents’ concerns,”  said Shumba. Harare mayor Bernard Manyenyeni recently admitted the city’s billing system was in shambles.

Although council spokesperson Michael Chideme was not immediately available for comment, council deputy chairperson for finance, Urayayi Mangwiro, told Talking Harare a new billing system will soon be unveiled to try and address some of the concerns being raised by stakeholders.

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