Mayor says government is so broke it is trying to squeeze money from local authorities


0

The first Movement for Democratic Change mayor of a city Alois Chaimiti of Masvingo told United States embassy officials in June 2002 that the government was so broke that it was trying to squeeze money from relatively successful local authorities.

Chaimiti who had been shunned by both Local Government Minister Ignatius Chombo and Masvingo provincial governor Josiah Hungwe when he was elected in May 2001 said the two had now accepted him because of the overwhelming support the MDC enjoyed in Masvingo urban and the city’s ability to raise funds locally and operate independently from the central government.

Chaimiti said Masvingo obtained 90 to 95 percent of its revenues from local residents in the form of property taxes and service revenues. It no longer received any funds directly from the central government which was basically broke.

 

Full cable:

 

Viewing cable 02HARARE1507, ZIMBABWE: OPPOSITION MAYOR OF MASVINGO GAINING

If you are new to these pages, please read an introduction on the structure of a cable as well as how to discuss them with others. See also the FAQs

Reference ID

Created

Released

Classification

Origin

02HARARE1507

2002-07-01 08:11

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 001507

 

SIPDIS

 

NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR JFRAZER

LONDON FOR CGURNEY

PARIS FOR CNEARY

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/01/2012

TAGS: PGOV PHUM ASEC EAID ZI

SUBJECT: ZIMBABWE: OPPOSITION MAYOR OF MASVINGO GAINING

GRUDGING ACCEPTANCE FROM RULING PARTY

 

REF: HARARE 1463

 

Classified By: Political Officer Todd Faulk for reasons 1.5 (b)

and (d)

 

1. (C) On June 27, poloff met in Harare with Alois Chaimiti,

the MDC Mayor of Masvingo and the first opposition mayor in

Zimbabwe’s post-independence history. Chaimiti came into

office in May 2001 after a typically violent election

campaign. In the 13 months since his installation, Chaimiti

has gained the grudging acceptance of the ZANU-PF-dominated

City Council, and he contends that he is making progress in

improving city services and demonstrating that the opposition

party is capable of governing. The ZANU-PF Minister of Local

Government, Ignatius Chombo, and Governor of Masvingo, Josiah

Hungwe, have even begun to acknowledge his presence in

public, Chaimiti laughed.

 

2. (C) When Chaimiti first came into office, the City

Council, which comprises two independents and eight ZANU-PF

members, had difficulty accepting and working with him, much

as the council of Chitungwiza hinders its new mayor (reftel).

Difficulties still arise, but now the council generally

takes a live-and-let-live approach and is cooperating with

the Mayor in improving city services and repaving some city

streets. Chaimiti admitted some surprise when the Ministry

of Local Government approved in February 2002 his application

for city status for Masvingo, which has about 100,000 people.

Shortly after his election, Chaimiti sent letters to Chombo

and Governor Hungwe signaling his desire to work congenially

with them for the benefit of Masvingo. Chombo simply ignored

his letter, but Hungwe reportedly became “very angry” and for

a long time refused to appear in public with Chaimiti.

Recently, however, Hungwe’s “hard feelings” appear to have

abated somewhat, as he has shown up at some of the same

public functions that the mayor attends, and even indirectly

acknowledges his presence.

 

3. (C) Chaimiti attributed the partial turnaround in ZANU-PF

attitudes to: 1) the “overwhelming” support the MDC enjoys in

urban Masvingo, and 2) the city’s ability to raise funds

locally and operate independently from the central

government. Soon after his election in May 2001, ZANU-PF

organized a large, angry protest at the mayor’s office. A

few months later, a similar effort fizzled because ZANU-PF

was simply unable to find enough local people willing to

protest against the MDC, Chaimiti claimed. After the March

presidential election, a few ZANU-PF youth paraded around

town with a mock coffin labeled “MDC” and called for

retribution against MDC supporters. However, the retribution

failed to materialize, and Chaimiti reported that he has been

untouched by the threats of violence or actual violence that

befall so many other MDC officials. Furthermore, the city of

Masvingo now obtains 90 to 95 percent of its revenues from

local residents in the form of property taxes and service

revenues (water, sewerage, etc.). The rest of the funds come

from bond issues that must be approved by the Minister of

Local Government, but the city no longer receives any funds

directly from the central government, which is basically

broke, Chaimiti said. This gives local authorities much more

independence than they used to have. The GOZ is so desperate

for funds now that it is even trying to squeeze relatively

successful local governments for money. Masvingo has so far

resisted the pressure, and instead, has compelled the central

government to pay back service fees for the offices and

colleges that it operates in town. Chaimiti added that his

job is likely to get easier after council elections are held

in August of next year.

 

4. (C) Chaimiti took time to thank the USG for the

USAID-funded projects that have built 3,100 housing units in

two Masvingo suburbs, and for the USAID-funded good

governance project that has improved relations between the

City Council and the new Resident Taxpayers’ Association.

Chaimiti made a pitch for the U.S. to establish a sister-city

relationship with Masvingo and inform American cities that

they should not be overly wary of Zimbabwe, where they can

still be of help. The mayor noted that Masvingo’s

sister-city relationships with towns in Germany, Sweden and

the UK have yielded positive results. Kernan, Germany, for

example, has been very helpful by building two clinics in

Masvingo and providing hospital equipment.

 

5. (C) Comment: The City of Masvingo, with the oldest MDC

administration in Zimbabwe, provides a testing ground and

possible glimpse of what MDC/ZANU-PF cooperation could be

like for the new mayors of Harare and Chitungwiza (reftel).

However, ZANU-PF’s kid-glove treatment of Chaimiti is less

likely due to a genuine desire for cooperation than a

realization that its support in rural Masvingo is

half-hearted, and ZANU-PF rebel Eddison Zvobgo could mobilize

public opinion against the regime province-wide if it

inflamed the situation with attacks on the mayor.

Nonetheless, the GOZ has to be concerned with the growing

independence of local governments and the proving ground they

provide the MDC for its ability to govern responsibly in

direct contrast to the central government. It may be only a

matter of time before the GOZ turns its attention to this

growing “problem” and rewrites the legislation that governs

local authorities. End comment.

 

SULLIVAN

(9 VIEWS)

Don't be shellfish... Please SHARETweet about this on Twitter
Twitter
Share on Facebook
Facebook
Share on LinkedIn
Linkedin
Email this to someone
email
Print this page
Print

Like it? Share with your friends!

0
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.

0 Comments

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *