News Column

Chombo Backs Harare Town Clerk Over Posh Car Splurge

June 20, 2014

LOCAL Government Minister Ignatius Chombo has once again run to the defence of Harare Town Clerk Tendai Mahachi who is under a council probe for diverting part of the $144m Chinese water rehabilitation loan on posh cars.

Mahachi is said to have used part of the loan to buy 50 luxury vehicles, forcing the local authority to launch a probe into the expenditure.

But Chombo defended the Town Clerk on Thursday.

"You should have bought more cars actually. Use those cars or else we will allocate them to others," said the minister who also ordered Mahachi's return to work after he was suspended by council early this year. Chombo's indifference to apparent impropriety by his blue-eyed boy has infuriated rate payers who would carry the burden of repaying the loan.

Mahachi, a city bureaucrat enjoying the proverbial nine lives thanks to Chombo, is further accused of by-passing councillors to splurge on the vehicles.

But the Zanu PF minister said Mahachi acted within his responsibilities when purchasing the cars.

Chombo went on to question the professional suitability of the probe team set up to investigate Mahachi, saying a choice of engineers forming the probe team were better placed to understand the complexities of running the city.

"We have heard about the investigations and the cost involved in it; sometimes they (councillors) need to satisfy themselves but I was advising the Deputy Mayor (Thomas Muzuva) that I would have recommended seasoned engineers who understand how projects are done to carry out the investigations," Chombo said.

The probe team comprised Muzuva, Councillor Stewart Mutizwa, a lawyer Tendai Amon Toto, civil engineer Richard Massdrop and Gabriel Chipara, a financial accountant.

Chombo continued: "There is no project in this country which does not have project equipment and vehicles but I think they could continue then tell us what they come up with."

The Zvimba North lawmaker, who was speaking to journalists during his Thursday tour of Harare'sMorton Jeffrey Water Works, said everything was in order with three top city officials cruising on Range Rovers.

Mahachi blessed himself with a spiffy Range Rover Vogue while Engineer Zvobgo and Phillip Pukwa each took delivery of Land Rover Discovery 4s.

"The Discovery was bought for three people, the others were given pick-ups; well, you make the judgment but we will wait till their investigation is over so they give us their views and thinking," Chombo said.

Other vehicles purchased involved Ford Rangers, Toyota and Isuzu twin-cabs which the recipients' had personally chosen.

However, while the city bosses cruise in their latest acquisitions, angry residents took offence with the city authorities' love for luxury at the expense of service delivery.

Harare Residents' Trust director Precious Shumba vowed to challenge the abuse of the city's depleted purse by those charged with the management of rates.

"It is critical to realise that the power of the citizens cannot be broken by official titles," he said.

"The citizens are determined to force the council to be more accountable and transparent in the utilization of public resources."

He added: "The 144 million dollars should not be treated like a secret because at the end of the day, residents will have to repay the loan at an interest that has not been disclosed to the citizenry in contravening of Section 62 of the constitution of Zimbabwe."

The loan, extended to the beleaguered local authority by the Chinese Exim Bank, was meant for the ongoing water and sanitation rehabilitation set for a December 2015 completion.

It is however, not the first time Chombo has protected the bungling Mahachi.

The long serving government minister, who has also been probed for land theft by the previous Harare council, interfered with council affairs in February this year by reinstating Mahachi, after he was suspended by Harare mayor Bernard Manyenyeni for refusing furnish council with the salary schedule for Town House bosses.

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Source: AllAfrica

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