SUSPENDED Harare mayor Bernard Manyenyeni is still trying to come to
terms with events of the past few weeks where he was ordered off Town
House pending investigations into how he appointed banker James Mushore
as Harare’s town clerk before seeking approval from the Local Government
The embattled Harare city father is also wondering why his urgent court challenge against suspension by Local Government minister Saviour Kasukuwere was dismissed. NewsDay Weekender’s senior reporter Richard Chidza (ND) caught up with Manyenyeni (BM) for a rundown of events leading to his suspension and his future plans. Below are excerpts:
ND: Could you explain to us the process that council followed in appointing James Mushore as Harare’s town clerk?
BM: Once we were certain that former town clerk Tendai Mahachi was leaving council chambers, out of courtesy, I notified my party (MDC-T) and they indicated two things: That I should lead a process to identify a successor; and that the process must be professional with no political interference. We then set up a panel involving all chairpersons of committees, two representatives each of the residents’ associations, the two chairpersons of the parties represented at council and my predecessor, Muchadeyi Masunda, to constitute an interviewing panel.
We had flighted an advert that was not typical of all government adverts. Its style and format was not in keeping with the norm because we wanted to try something fresh. We also chose a special purpose vehicle email address, not my personal one, to receive applications and ensure confidentiality. Any premature release of names would have polluted the process. All the applications were forwarded to two human resources consultants — High Posts and Distinctive — who had identical tasks of coming up with a shortlist which two were given to a third consultant Ernst&Young.
The third consultant had to come up with eight names and from those, we interviewed seven because one of them, Tapiwa Mashakada, was out of the country and we could not move dates to accommodate him.
ND: You indicate residents’ associations were represented. Why does it seem they have a different appreciation of what happened?
BM: The Harare Residents’ Trust struggled with the whole process. Initially, they wanted names in advance and we refused. They published a non-existent list in advance, which was wrong. If anybody got a tip from their wife on who to choose, it is their right. The fact is all panellists agreed Mushore was tops.
ND: So from this, Mushore was selected and you offered him a contract?
ND: Where then were any dissenting voices coming from?
BM: I do not recall any, but there may be different preferences. All I did was to summarise the council resolution as passed.
ND: So what was left was for him (Mushore) to resume his duties?
ND: Do you think the Local Government minister (Saviour Kasukuwere) and the Local Government Board have a role to play in the appointment of senior council officials including the town clerk?
BM: I look to them for guidance. They are good for guidance.
ND: So, legally, you have no obligation to consult them?
BM: Under the new dispensation, no! But under the old one, wrongly, yes. I say so because if you take on a mandate to perform a task, you choose your tools. The performance is attributable to us, so the tools must come from us as council.
ND: But does the Local Government Board even exist?
BM: There is every sign of a dysfunctional board which operates like a shelf company. Their functionality is questionable. I was supposed to meet them and I hitchhiked from Kariba, but they had not been able to get in touch with each other and the meeting failed. If they cannot function for the capital city, what about a small rural council somewhere?
ND; What is your view of the conduct of your successor (acting mayor) Christopher Mbanga and your party in the aftermath of your suspension?
BM: I think the (Zanu PF) system has abused his (Mbanga’s) naivety and he seems to have fallen into a trap.
ND: But he has come around and indicated the town clerk can go back to work?
BM: We are not sure of where he really stands.
ND: And the party?
BM: The party has stood by the council decision and has rejected political manipulation.
ND: But do you think the MDC-T should have been party to a purely administrative wrangle between council and the minister?
BM: The party has always separated Town House from Harvest House (MDC-T headquarters). (MDC-T leader Morgan) Tsvangirai has always told me that he does not micro-manage council. You will notice that the party only came in when there was a crisis. When they came in, they were firm and consistent.
ND: You do not think the party’s joining the fight gave the minister reason to turn the issue political?
BM: It should never be a crime for a party that has its deployees to be involved in that council.
ND: How difficult is it to operate in this kind of environment?
BM: The minister is in a dilemma. His Cabinet portfolio demands that an MDC-T council succeeds, but his portfolio at Zanu PF dictates that we fail. He is caught in between.
ND: After the High Court ruling, where to now?
BM: We still have two cases pending in the courts around this matter. I am supposed to appear before some sort of competent authority, which does not exist. The minister is fast-tracking legislation through Parliament and the situation remains fluid.
ND: Do you think the minister politicised an administrative matter?
BM: The strongest view is that because Mushore was related to the late (Army Commander) General Solomon Mujuru, whose wife is now fronting a splinter party from Zanu PF, they do not want him in a key role.
This job is key because we do almost everything that government does. Mushore scored highly and he could not be compared to any other candidates. The people who should be Harare’s chief executive must be ones who have run successful blue-chip companies and nothing less.
ND: Are you still willing to go back to Town House?
BM: I have a mandate to complete and I would want to see it through.