Harare: dirty city, dirty politics, dirty black gold


Since 2000, there has been a toxic history of animosity between the national government and urban local government in Zimbabwe. At the turn of the century, urban city councils became political havens for the main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change, as they tried to wrestle power away from ZANU-PF. As a result, the ministry of local government under the ZANU-PF government changed from being in the lower rungs of political power to becoming very powerful and important. 

Successive local government ministers have abused their oversight powers over local urban councils. In the 2000s, Former minister Ignatius Chombo suspended Harare mayor Elias Mudzuri. In 2007, the mayoral executive powers were stripped, which in turn gave more power to the local government minister as well as the town clerk, who was appointed by the minister. In 2013, minister Saviour Kasukuwere suspended mayor Bernard Manyenyeni. Since 2021, the current local government minister July Moyo has suspended mayor Jacob Mafume four times. 

This has occurred alongside urban councils losing the administrative autonomy they previously held over service provisions such as power supply, water and management of roads. The 2013 Constitution in Section 264 entrenched devolution into the nation’s laws, but the national government has purposefully delayed aligning acts of parliament — in this case, the 1995 Urban Councils Act — to extend their control over urban councils. 

In this context, the awarding of the Pomona dumpsite contract by the national government is an act of authoritarianism designed to enrich individuals linked to the corridors of power. 

It has been established that Geogenix belongs to controversial Albanian businessman Mirel Mertiri, who was a subject of the Paradise Papers investigation. Mertiri’s Zimbabwean business partner is Delish Nguwaya, who has links to Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s sons. Nguwaya was charged with fraud after a leak came out that a contract he received from the government of Zimbabwe to supply drugs and equipment worth US$60 million was grossly inflated. 

The Pomona deal appears to be yet another attempt to fleece money from citizens through a government contract. It is also worth mentioning that the day when the Pomona dumpsite contract was signed, Mafume, who has been a vocal critic of the national government, was serving a suspension from his position, which was later overturned by the courts.

Mafume has expressed his anger, repeatedly arguing that as the local council, “we have lost our power station, our roads and now Pomona. We can’t keep on losing.”

Mafume has managed to halt the Pomona contract awarded to Geogenix, and has staunchly refused to pay the bill of US$780 000 due for May only. This is a noble effort, but Harare still has a waste problem. Only seven functional refuse trucks are operational, and the council is relying on private sector involvement, which is not accessible to all.  

While Mafume fights against the authoritarian measures of the national government, there is a need to provide alternative solutions that deepen democracy, increase citizen engagement, and go a long way towards solving the waste crisis in Harare. 

Continued next page


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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.


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