Outspoken critic Eddison Zvobgo, who was a lawyer, advised Movement for Democratic Change mayor of Harare Elias Mudzuri to file a petition with the High Court charging that Local Government Minister Ignatius Chombo had overreached his authority because Chombo had no reasonable grounds for suspending him as mayor.
Mudzuri’s lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa did not intend to take the case to court though she was going to write Chombo that he had no legal basis for suspending Mudzuri.
Mtetwa said she was advising Mudzuri not to go to court because the likelihood that he would face a judge sympathetic to ZANU-PF was great.
The objective was to force Chombo to prove his case rather than Mudzuri to prove his innocence.
Viewing cable 03HARARE833, HARARE MAYOR SUSPENDED
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
301442Z Apr 03
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 HARARE 000833
NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR J. FRAZER
LONDON FOR C. GURNEY
PARIS FOR C. NEARY
NAIROBI FOR T. PFLAUMER
E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/30/2013
SUBJECT: HARARE MAYOR SUSPENDED
REF: HARARE 77
Classified By: POLITICAL OFFICER KIMBERLY JEMISON FOR REASONS 1.5 (C) A
¶1. (C) The suspension of Harare mayor Elias Mudzuri, on April
29 for alleged mismanagement of the city is an effort by the
ruling party ZANU-PF to regain control of the capital city.
The Minister of Local Government, Public Works, and National
Housing, Ignatius Chombo, by applying Section 54 of the Urban
Councils Act, seems to be trying to pave the way for
Mudzuri,s dismissal despite having no legal basis to do so.
We are not certain how Mudzuri will react to this attempt--he
has been counseled to challenge the suspension in High
Court--but in the interim we think that the USG's position
should be that Mudzuri remains the legally elected and
empowered mayor. End Summary.
Minister Suspends Mayor for Mismanagement
¶2. (U) Following the April 29 Cabinet meeting, Minister of
Local Government, Public Works, and National Housing,
Ignatius Chombo announced Executive Mayor of Harare Elias
Mudzuri,s suspension from office pending the results of an
investigation for misconduct. The Deputy Mayor, Sekesayi
Makwavarara, also MDC is a woman whom Mudzuri has privately
characterized as ¬ sharp8 in a conversation with the
Ambassador, will be acting mayor. The suspension came on the
opening day of the Harare International Festival of the Arts
and during the visit by the Deputy Mayor of Harare's sister
city Munich, who was outraged with the suspension. Since
Mudzuri took office in March 2002, ZANU-PF, Chombo has been
ZANU-PF's hatchet man in a campaign to discredit the mayor
and undermine his influence. The GOZ even went so far as to
arrest the mayor, deputy mayor, and several councilors in
January for meeting with constituents, in supposed
contravention of the Public Order and Security Act. (See
¶3. (U) Chombo told the government-controlled newspaper,
Herald that a committee of inquiry would be appointed next
week to investigate the allegations and recommend a course of
action. Chombo said the committee, unlike a commission,
would not run the affairs of the city--leaving the
overwhelmingly MDC-dominated council intact to continue
governing Harare. Mudzuri told the Ambassador that he urged
his councilors not to quit in protest at his suspension.
(NOTE: Under the Urban Councils Act, the Minister may appoint
a commission to act as council if all the councilors have
been suspended or are unable to exercise all or some of their
functions. END NOTE.)
¶4. (U) Chombo claimed that Mudzuri was suspended because of
mismanagement of city affairs that has led to a decline in
service delivery. In particular, Chombo accuses Mudzuri of:
--Failing to deliver and publicize a strategic turnaround
plan for the city.
--Arbitrarily suspending key management staff without a staff
--Abusing his authority by selectively reprimanding employees
--Encouraging illegal activities within the city through
press advertisements, contrary to one of the council mandates
to protect the public health of residents.
--Flouting and ignoring tender procedures to benefit
individuals and companies of his choosing. He is also
accused of manipulating these procedures in tendering
services related to water billing systems, street light
fittings, procurement of water treatment chemicals, and
--Mismanaging public finances by producing partisan documents
not in the interest of sound, smooth governance.
--Encouraging employees to participate in the stayaways in
March and April.
--Failing to sufficiently supply water to the city and
satellite towns since September.
Measured Response By Party
¶5. (U) Mudzuri dismissed Chombo,s accusations telling the
independent newspaper, Daily News, denying that there are
suitable grounds for suspension. However he would be willing
to submit his performance and continued tenure in office to
city residents in a referendum. (NOTE: The Urban Councils
Act states that the Minister may suspend a mayor if he is
suspected of having been guilty of conduct that renders him
unsuitable as a mayor. The same clause states that the
President may dismiss a mayor if he is guilty of conduct that
makes him unsuitable to be mayor. END NOTE.) Mudzuri
claimed that Chombo wants to trigger unnecessary chaos and
confusion in the city. At a subsequent dinner with the
Ambassador, MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai told the Ambassador
the MDC would not rush into street protests over this issue.
He said the MDC would stick to its own timetable. Another
dinner guest, former Finance Minister Simba Makoni speculated
that this latest development could be part of a move by the
&Gang of Four8 (Chombo, Agriculture Minister Joseph Made,
Information Minister Jonathan Moyo, and Minister of Justice
Patrick Chinamasa) to consolidate their positions and
"radicalize" the situation amid reports that their sole
source of influence and power--President Robert Mugabe--may
be contemplating retirement.
¶6. (U) Beatrice Mtetwa, Mudzuri's attorney, outlined the
mayor's response to Chombo. Mtetwa said she would deliver a
letter to Chombo today stating that he has no legal basis for
suspending Mudzuri but that they would not take him to court
over the matter. Mtetwa told us she is advising Mudzuri to
not go to court because the likelihood that he would face a
judge sympathetic to ZANU-PF was great. The objective is to
force Chombo to prove his case rather than have Mudzuri prove
his innocence. Elder ZANU-PF statesman, Eddison Zvobgo, who
told the Ambassador that he had talked with Mudzuri about the
suspension and informed Mudzuri that Chombo has no
"reasonable grounds" as stated in the act for suspending
Mudzuri. He counseled Mudzuri to file a petition with the
High Court charging Chombo with overreaching his authority.
¶7. (C) The suspension of Mayor Mudzuri--a popular mayor who
has had some successes in improving city services despite the
ZANU-PF campaign to sabotage his efforts--is a transparent
attempt to prevent the MDC's most prominent office-holder
from delivering services effectively and thus further
diminishing the ruling party's waning support in the capital
city. Since other ZANU-PF tactics have not succeeded in
dashing Mudzuri's popularity, ZANU-PF has ignored legal
niceties in its attempts to unseat the mayor. Chombo
probably intends to use a section of the Urban Councils Act
to assemble a hand-picked committee assembled to
"investigate" the allegations and determine that the
President has grounds to dismiss the mayor.
¶8. (C) Mudzuri told the Ambassador that in spite of the
suspension he would still like to attend the International
Conference of Mayors in Denver in June and fulfill his prior
Washington appointments. We strongly support this course of
action. Given the clearly political nature of his suspension
and the fact that this is only a suspension and not a
dismissal, our maintaining USG sponsorship of this trip would
send a strong signal of support for the MDC mayor at this
difficult time. Chombo's machinations aside, it remains our
view that Mudzuri is still the legally elected leader of this
city. End Comment.