Chombo tries to neutralise MDC influence in cities

The government through Local Government Minister Ignatius Chombo decided to appoint metropolitan governors to neutralise the influence of the Movement for Democratic Change which by 2002 already had five mayors.

According to a cable released by Wikileaks, the mayors provided the only opportunity for the opposition party to demonstrate that it could govern well but the government was determined to ensure that this did not happen and was all out to discredit, obstruct and supercede the MDC mayors.

“This is a risky strategy for the GOZ, however, as three of the MDC's five mayors--those in Harare, Bulawayo, and Chitungwiza--were elected by overwhelming margins and their constituents are growing angrier and more desperate by the day,” the cable says.

 

Full cable:

 

Viewing cable 03HARARE42, GOZ ESCALATES PRESSURE ON MDC MAYORS

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Reference ID

Created

Released

Classification

Origin

03HARARE42

2003-01-08 09:41

2011-08-30 01:44

CONFIDENTIAL

Embassy Harare

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 HARARE 000042

 

SIPDIS

 

NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR J. FRAZER

LONDON FOR C. GURNEY

PARIS FOR C. NEARY

NAIROBI FOR T. PFLAUMER

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/01/2013

TAGS: PGOV PHUM ASEC ZI

SUBJECT: GOZ ESCALATES PRESSURE ON MDC MAYORS

 

 

Classified By: Political Officer Audu Besmer for reasons 1.5 b/d

 

Summary:

--------

1. (C) On January 6 and 7 the government-owned The Herald

reported that the GOZ would soon appoint governors for the

cities of Harare and Bulawayo. The move comes amid a general

GOZ campaign to discredit, obstruct, or supersede MDC mayors

and city councils. The GOZ's strategy could be risky, as the

MDC's five mayors nationwide were elected with comfortable

margins by voters who are growing more desperate by the day.

End Summary.

 

GOZ Appointees for MDC Strongholds

----------------------------------

2. (C) On January 6 and 7 the government-owned The Herald

reported that the GOZ would soon appoint governors for the

cities of Harare and Bulawayo. Until now, only rural

provinces have had governors. Minister of Local Government

Ignatius Chombo said that President Mugabe's declaration to

this effect was gazetted on January 3, however according to

the city of Harare Chief Public Relations Officer, Cuthbert

Rwazemba, the city has not yet received official

notification. Harare and Bulawayo, which are legally

considered provinces under the 1980 Provincial Councils Act,

would be divided into eight and five districts respectively.

Until now the status as provinces of these urban centers was

only relevant for administrative purposes during elections.

Chombo said the mayors of Bulawayo and Harare would "have

specific duties to perform under their governors" and the

legal modalities for this structure had already been worked

out. Rwazemba expects the GOZ will also appoint district

administrators (DA) for the new districts, and said the moves

are being seen as a GOZ effort to curtail the power of the

MDC in urban areas.

 

3. (U) The Constitution limits the number of presidentially

appointed governors sitting in Parliament to the existing

eight. It is unclear how the GOZ will provide Parliamentary

seats to the two new governors, although, Chombo said he was

confident that Minister of Justice--and ZANU-PF leader in the

Parliament--Patrick Chinamasa would find a solution.

 

MDC Mayor Besieged by ZANU-PF Youth

-----------------------------------

4. (C) This latest move comes as part of a concerted GOZ

campaign to harass and obstruct mayors elected on MDC

tickets. On November 29 about forty ZANU-PF youths,

including at least two Chegutu municipal workers attacked

Chegutu Mayor, Francis Dhlakama, in his office. The

attackers accused Dhlakama of insulting Phineas Mariyapera,

the deputy mayor. The crowd also assaulted a police officer

who attempted to assist Dhlakama during the assault, and

punctured three tires on Dhlakama's official vehicle. The

assailants used axes, iron bars, golf clubs, fire

extinguishers, and rocks to break into the Mayor's offices in

the attempt to get at the Mayor. A computer, carpet and

documents were damaged in the siege. (Note: Fearing for

their safety, Dhlakama subsequently approached the Ambassador

requesting assistance to send his family abroad so he could

continue his work. Poloff arranged with the Konrad Adenauer

Foundation, and Amani Trust, a local human rights

organization, to send the family to Capetown for a few

months. End Note.)

 

Minister Spars Publicly with MDC Mayor

--------------------------------------

5. (U) In what has become a running attack publicized in the

government-owned press Minister of Local Government Ignatius

Chombo has criticized the Mayor of Harare, Elias Mudzuri, for

allegedly politicizing the water shortage in Harare, for

obstructing housing development, for hiring opposition

supporters, and most recently for politicizing city

contracts. Mudzuri has fought back with equal strength in

the independent press accusing Chombo of similar offenses,

and challenging him to a televised debate, a challenge Chombo

has yet to accept.

 

6. (U) In a more significant move, Chombo has appointed a

temporary commission charged with helping Mudzuri develop a

"turnaround plan" for Harare. This action was widely

interpreted as an attempt to undermine Mudzuri, who was

beginning to make noticeable improvements to the city's

roads, streetlights, and traffic signals.

 

City Councils Refuse Order to Report to DAs

-------------------------------------------

7. (U) The Urban Councils Association of Zimbabwe (UCAZ), an

association of urban mayors and council chairpersons, met on

November 6 in Harare to discuss an October 4 notice from the

Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National

Housing. The notice, addressed to urban mayors, requested

that mayors provide meeting schedules and minutes to their

respective government-appointed district administrators (DA)

so that DAs could attend their meetings. The notice also

reminds mayors that the Ministry of Local Government is

mandated by the Urban Councils Act to monitor and supervise

the affairs of local authorities in Zimbabwe. UCAZ members

were adamantly against the order and delivered a response to

the Ministry of Local Government refusing to comply.

Comment:

--------

8. (C) These physical and verbal attacks, and moves to

supersede mayors with government appointments and new

authority structures, illustrate a GOZ strategy to reassert

control in urban constituencies that fell to the MDC in

recent elections. The MDC's five mayors provide the only

opportunity for the opposition party to demonstrate that it

can govern well, and the GOZ appears increasingly determined

to ensure that does not happen. This is a risky strategy for

the GOZ, however, as three of the MDC's five mayors--those in

Harare, Bulawayo, and Chitungwiza--were elected by

overwhelming margins and their constituents are growing

angrier and more desperate by the day. Minister Chombo is

legally entitled to remove a mayor from office, but we

suspect such a move would be held in abeyance as a last

resort. End Comment.

SULLIVAN

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