The government through Local Government Minister Ignatius Chombo decided to appoint metropolitan governors for Harare and Bulawayo to neutralise the influence of the Movement for Democratic Change which by 2002 already had five mayors.
At the time the Constitution limited the number of presidentially appointed governors sitting in Parliament to eight but Chombo said he was confident that Minister of Justice Patrick Chinamasa would find a solution.
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,” United States ambassador to Zimbabwe Joseph Sullivan said.
Viewing cable 03HARARE42, GOZ ESCALATES PRESSURE ON MDC MAYORS
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
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
SUBJECT: GOZ ESCALATES PRESSURE ON MDC MAYORS
Classified By: Political Officer Audu Besmer for reasons 1.5 b/d
¶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.
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.
¶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.