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Open Letter to President Mnangagwa to Commission an Inquiry into Redcliff Municipality

Tendai Ruben Mbofana

It was with such great pleasure and a long overdue move that we learned of Your Excellency’s instituting a Commission of Inquiry into the affairs of the City of Harare on May 13, 2024, chaired by Justice Maphios Cheda.

This welcome decision to investigate Harare City Council’s accounting systems and financial affairs over the last seven years is meant to finally bring sanity to a city riddled with perennial crises over the past decades, particularly in service delivery.

Most suburbs in the capital city have gone for years without safe, clean, potable water, refuse collection is non-existent, bills are inaccurate and based on deliberate misrepresentation of the actual amounts owed.

As a direct result of these glaring short-comings by the local authority, Harare has had the embarrassing  tag of endured repeated attacks by ancient diseases as cholera, as residents resort to unsafe water sources whilst also living  in an unhygienic environment.

While I applaud this positive move to appoint a Commission of Inquiry for the capital city, I would like to bring to your attention that Harare is not the only one adversely affected by gross mismanagement.

We, in the small town of Redcliff, are not spared nearly identical problems as experienced in Harare.

The town, specifically Redcliff suburb, has now gone for three years without safe, clean, potable water coming through our home taps.

As Your Excellency would be well aware, this is in stark violation of section 77 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, which unambiguously states: Every person has the right to safe, clean and potable water.

However, the Municipality of Redcliff, who are mandated by section 183 of the Urban Council Act  to provide and maintain a supply of water within and outside the council area, have abysmally failed in this regard.

Furthermore, the Water Act (Chapter 20:24) compels the State to ensure the availability of water to all citizens of Zimbabwe for primary purposes and other uses.

Nonetheless, this woeful failure in fulfilling both the Constitution and acts of law has witnessed unimaginable suffering by residents of Redcliff suburb who have gone for three years without water.

In this regard, most have been forced to resort to unsafe water sources, posing a real grave danger of diseases as cholera, as tragically witnessed in Harare.

The Municipality of Redcliff has not been short of excuses (which have now become too many to count and record) as to the reasons for their abject failure in fulfilling their constitutional and legal obligations.

However, amidst this myriad excuses, we as residents earnestly believe that financial irresponsibility and gross irregularities in the management of our town’s affairs are the main culprits.

Your Excellency, there have been numerous reports of the misuse of municipal land – which was exchanged for such things as expensive luxury vehicles and high-end mobile phones for top officials.

These fraudulent activities have repeatedly been flagged by the country’s auditor-general.

This was after the Municipality of Redcliff scandalously gave away 21 hectares of our land, in a deal estimated to be worth US$850,000, with a local cement making company (Livetouch Investments).

The murky deal not only violated the Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Act – by not going to tender – but was highly irregular since Livetouch Investments is not a vehicle supplier.

We have watched, in utter shock, as top officials gave themselves Toyota Fortuner GD6s, four Toyota Hilux, five Nissan NP300 trucks, and others.

Further to this, investigations revealed that the town clerk’s Toyota Fortuner as well as a Toyota Quantum vehicle were invoiced different amounts in excess of the agreed values as per the purchase agreement.

The Toyota Fortuner on purchase agreement was invoiced US$61,727, but the council invoiced US$83,500, resulting in a variance of US$21,773.

The Toyota Quantum on the purchase agreement was invoiced US$41,034, which later shot up to US$50,465 on actual payment made, showing a US$9,431 variance.

Further investigations by corruption watchdog, Anti-Corruption Trust of Southern Africa (ACT-SA), exposed even more to the rot.

A whistle-blower claimed that Toyota Fortuner GD6 vehicles were not procured from Toyota Zimbabwe but instead from an individual linked to a top official in the council.

When asked, Toyota Zimbabwe has denied any such transaction with the municipality of Redcliff – contrary to the local authority’s assertions.

A national publication, NewsHawks, also reported that a company called Storey Marketing Hardware, which supplies protective clothing, wrote a letter to the municipality requesting the amounts owed to it to be paid by allocation of stands, and the local authority agreed.

The value of the transaction was ZW$537,113 – and a low-density residential stand number 3929 measuring 1,300 square meters was allocated.

There are more reports of land being awarded to several councillors and officials in rather dubious circumstances.

It is widely believed that quite a number of officials are now owners of stands throughout Redcliff under questionable deals.

The apparent graft by the municipality appears to now have been targeted at residents who are receiving fraudulent bills.

There has been an outcry by residents throughout the town over exaggerated bills whose calculations can not be satisfactorily explained by the local authority.

This has further damped residents’ willingness to pay their bills in an atmosphere of deepening distrust – which has been further exacerbated by the abysmal service delivery in the midst of reports of corruption and mismanagement.

As if this was not terrible enough, Your Excellency, residents are being made to pay for services that are not being provided.

In all this, in addition to the non-provision of safe, clean, potable water, residents are living in danger of cholera due to uncollected refuse.

An unacceptably high number of roads are impassable, whilst numerous areas have no street lights – leading to an increase in crimes such as house burglaries and sexual assaults.

In so doing, not only do we have to pay the municipality for nothing in return, but we also have to fork out loads of dollars in buying water from those with private boreholes.

Yet our town fathers and mothers are more concerned about looting our resources for their own aggrandizement and comfort.

I honestly believe this has to be stopped, Your Excellency.

It is our prayer as Redcliff residents and on my own behalf that you, Your Excellency, institute a Commission of Inquiry to investigate the affairs of the Municipality of Redcliff.

As is with the City of Harare, this Commission should investigate the Municipality of Redcliff’s accounting systems and financial affairs over the last decade or so.

It is my earnest belief that this is where the origins to our perennial  challenges in Redcliff will be unearthed.

I further implore Your Excellency not to be hoodwinked by any claims of the non-payment of bills by residents as the main reason.

This may end up being reduced to the debate on what came first – the egg or the chicken.

Your Excellency, I am positive that the Commission of Inquiry will answer that question by proving that rampant corruption and gross mismanagement are the root cause of this crisis.

The non-provision of essential services amidst endless unfulfilled promises by the Municipality of Redcliff, eroded trust leading to residents’ unwillingness to continue paying for a service that has seldom been provided.

In conclusion, I do trust that as a listening president, you will hear our impassioned cries as residents of Redcliff for your immediate intervention.

Thank you for your attention to these matters, and I look forward to a positive response.

Signed:

Tendai Ruben Mbofana

Redcliff resident, social justice advocate, and writer

[email protected] 

+263715667700 | +263782283975

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