An attempt by Harare councillors to fire four council directors for allegedly defying Government’s directive to cut salaries last year flopped due to a legal technicality.The quartet’s jobs were spared after it emerged that council could not smuggle another agenda into a special council meeting.
The special council meeting had been convened to notify council of acting town clerk Mrs Josephine Ncube’s suspension. The meeting, which was slated for 2:30pm yesterday, was delayed by over an hour as councillors consulted over the idea.
According to Section 84 (4) of the Urban Councils Act, which was read out by acting chamber secretary Mr Charles Kandemiri, no other matter other than that specified in a notice of meeting was allowed to be discussed.
The section reads: “Written notice of any special meeting called in terms of subsection (3) shall be sent to each councillor, at least twenty-four hours before the meeting, and shall specify the object of the meeting and no matters, other than those specified in that notice, shall be discussed at that special meeting.”
A councillor close to the deliberations confirmed the developments, saying they intended to fire all the substantive directors and they would now carry out another special council meeting.
“We discussed the matter when we were summoned by Minister Saviour Kasukuwere. He asked why we had suspended one director when they were in the same situation, so we decided to fire them all,” he said.
The councillors are however, divided over the matter. Mayor Bernard Manyenyeni could not be reached for comment.
According to the councillor, the directors facing the chop are acting town clerk Dr Cainos Chingombe; Health Services director Dr Prosper Chonzi; director of Works Engineer Phillip Pfukwa; and, acting finance director Mr Tendai Kwenda.
At the special full council meeting, the councillors upheld the decision by the Mayor to suspend Mrs Ncube last week after an audit by the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and Housing revealed that council officials continued to earn obscene salaries after a Government directive last year to cut salaries was apparently ignored.
According to the audit report, the city’s executives continued to earn between $12 000 and $21 000 from October 2014 to June 2015 as opposed to $10 450 for the highest earner stipulated by the Government.
This, the report said, prejudiced the city of over $550 000. As a result, Mrs Ncube was suspended without pay and benefits, and during her suspension, she will not be permitted to visit council offices without written approval of council.
However, Harare lawyer Mr Sternford Moyo, who is representing Mrs Ncube has since written to Mayor Manyenyeni informing him that his actions were unlawful, null, void and of no force and effect.
Mrs Ncube has been reporting for duty and council says it is consulting over the matter.
Mayor Manyenyeni yesterday notified councillors and read the suspension letter at a special full council meeting and councillors concurred with this decision.
The letter reads: “This serves to inform you that I am of the opinion that there is reasonable suspicion that you may be guilty of such conduct that is desirable that you should not be permitted to carry your work.
“I therefore, hereby suspend you pending investigation into acts of misconduct that you may have committed in particular, you have failed, refused or neglected to carry out instructions and key council resolutions,” reads the letter.
Mayor Manyenyeni also alleges that Mrs Ncube received large sums of money running into several thousands of dollars in July 2015 without council approval and knowledge.
Contrary to stated-Government policy to reduce the salaries of top managers in council, reads the letter, acting in concert with one or more persons, Mrs Ncube awarded herself and other managers and/or received large sums of money above stipulated amounts.
“You have committed acts that are not consistent with the express or implied conditions of your services. As a result of your actions, council has been prejudiced of large sums of money. These actions have seriously prejudiced the ratepayers by compromising service delivery in the city,” reads the letter. herald