MDC factions clash over Byo mayoral house

The MDC-T has given the nod to a proposal by the Bulawayo City Council (BCC) to construct a mayoral house in Selbourne Park for ZWL$25 million (almost US$295 000) while its rival – MDC Alliance believes those funds can be used to improve service delivery.

BCC, dominated by councillors from Douglas Mwonzora’s MDC-T, proposed to construct a new house rather than renovate a double-storey council property which had been identified as the mayoral official residence, located in Hornung Golf Club in Burnside.

According to a confidential council report obtained by CITE, the Burnside property is run down and if it was to undergo extensive renovations it would cost the local authority US$146 364.70.

An interdepartmental committee recommended building a house was ideal, noting the ZWL$25 million that was to be used would be sourced by transferring funds from other financial accounts.

“ZWL$25 000 000 is to be viremented from vote 0084/12244 ($16 200 000) and 0084/12245 ($8 800 000) to cater for building costs for the Mayoral Mansion.”

However, BCC did not respond to inquiries on where the money will be sourced from.  

In an interview with CITE, MDC-T National Spokesperson, Witness Dube said the city mayor deserved proper accommodation, as it was a standard procedure all over the world.

“The mayor is not an executive mayor. This will be a council house and part of council property so given a house to stay in goes with the job. This is standard everywhere in the world. It was odd that we had a mayor who doesn’t stay in a council house. There is nothing new with him given a house,” he said.

Dube said residents could only question extravagance, if there was such, “as in this case if you convert ZWL$25 million it is less than US$300 000.”

“If council approves the budget, they should stick to it and finish the construction on time so that costs don’t escalate. We know ratepayers come first, but it doesn’t mean the mayor getting a house will abdicate his responsibility to them,” said the MDC-T national spokesperson.

He added that MDC-T was clear on its agenda to ratepayers, “but can’t continue with a situation where the mayor does not have accommodation in the country’s second-largest city.”

MDC Alliance Bulawayo Provincial Spokesperson, Swithern Chirowodza, indicated that the proposal was not discussed with Bulawayo residents during the current financial year budget consultations.

“Therefore, this is not provided for as an expenditure item. MDC Alliance feels the money can be better spent repairing burst sewer pipes in Old Magwegwe where raw sewer flowed into more than 50 houses four days ago and the opportunity cost of a mayoral mansion is that of stopping that raw sewage,” he said.

The incumbent, Councillor Solomon Mguni, currently resides in Nkulumane suburb and Chirowodza pointed out that he would “live far from his voting constituency once the mayoral mansion is completed.”

The provincial spokesperson also declared Cllr Mguni was no longer part of the MDC Alliance.

“Mguni has never attended a single meeting since he was elected into office in 2018 despite him being part of the Provincial Executive Committee. Mguni never repudiated statements in which the MDC-T claimed him” he said.

Chirowodza added that the proposal is a violation of Article 4.1 of the MDC Alliance Constitution, which states among other factors that “the MDC Alliance is a pro-poor, people-centred social democratic movement.”

“As such the behaviour of members deployed to public office must show subservience to the party constitution and demonstrate that the MDC Alliance is a progeny of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions,” said the provincial spokesperson.

“The shenanigans at BCC show clearly that residents don’t have control over councillors and the local authorities themselves. Article 2.14.3 (viii) of the MDC Alliance Smart Pledge states that the party will have a non-profit approach to public institutions. But Mguni’s profligacy is daylight robbery.”

Ward 24 Cllr Batirai Dube also disapproved of the resolution.

“We distance ourselves from this move to divert resources set aside for service delivery. We are not part of that. As MDC Alliance councillors we were outclassed when the issue was being discussed. It was only the five of us out of 20. This shows Mwonzora is in control in Bulawayo,” he said.

“As MDC Alliance we are for the people, we are pro-people and we have to be with the people. We are not part of the decision making processes that result in corrupt tendencies, as there are now plans to build houses for senior council management.”

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