Mutare Mayor grilled over US$40,000 three-day workshop

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Mutare Mayor Blessing Tandi has said there is nothing amiss about council’s recent three-day strategic workshop held in Masvingo that allegedly guzzled about US$40,000 in allowances and other sundries at a time service delivery is at its worst in the city.

Mutare City Council, which is on record saying it is cash strapped, went to Masvingo with a 56 member delegation that camped at Chevron Hotel for four days.

Impeccable sources revealed that those who attended the workshop received colossal premiums in allowances, among other benefits.

Sources said the city councillors pocketed about ZW$100,500 (US$1000, parallel market rates) each in allowances. A total of twelve councillors attended the workshop.

Directors and managers numbering 12 received about ZW$70,000 each. Workers Union representatives and supporting staff were awarded about ZW$50,000 each.

In a heated Social Accountability Interface meeting organized by the Transparency International Zimbabwe (TIZ) held at a hotel in Mutare on Tuesday, Tandi who was voted into council through the Nelson Chamisa led MDC-Alliance and allegedly defected to Douglas Mwonzora’s MDC-T scoffed at the residents’ concerns of council’s rationale on holding the ‘bountiful” meeting outside Mutare at a time service delivery in the city was waning.

“There has been a lot of talk about the Masvingo issue (Workshop). But let me say that we have to be realistic about this issue. Everyone is doing it (holding workshops) and I don’t see anything wrong about us going to Masvingo,” said Tandi.

“For example Masvingo City Council was in Mutare last year and held its workshop here and why did you not chase them away. Why did you not ask them what they were doing in Mutare?” he said.

“I even wanted to go to the remotest area of the country where my team was going to have maximum concentration. The workshop was very important for us because we are required to formulate a strategic plan document in line with the National Development Strategy,” explained Tandi.

Residents’ groups queried the council’s ‘sumptuous’ expenditure against poor service delivery.

Edison Dube the Programs Director for United Mutare Residents and Ratepayers Trust (UMRRT) said: “a lot is happening at our civic centre. Service delivery is going down and the residents are receiving shocking bills. No one will be able to pay those bills.”

David Mutambirwa the Program Director for Mutare Residents and Ratepayers Association (MURRA) said: “How can you take such a big delegation to Masvingo and squander ratepayers’ money. That is an insult to the ratepayers who are struggling to pay rates. The delegation was too large and expensive for a city, which is financially incapacitated.”

In response Tandi said: “Any service given to you by the city council has a cost. In fact we should appreciate that the council has gone miles with the little revenue that we are collecting. How do we expect the council to deliver when people are not paying their rates?”

“Each and every one of us has to finance for his or her city. People are saying they do not have money but I am surprised that they are paying a minimum US$10 every month on rentals, where are they getting that money? It is up to the residents now on how we are going to develop this city. If we have little resources, will give poor service delivery and if we have more resources, then we will give quality and efficient service delivery,” said Tandi.

The council’s Housing and Community Services Director Ellen Mandiziba who also attended the Masvingo sojourn defended the council by saying it was unfair to blame council for poor service delivery.

“Let me highlight that it is very unfair to blame the council for the poor service delivery, but this is a national issue. You must blame the national economy that has not spared us as well. What you see on bills is what the cost of service is. This is a national problem,” she said.

Mutare City Council is currently spooled under immense qualms from financially stressed residents after bills were hiked by about 500 percent last month.

Through various residents groups, the ratepayers have heavily resisted paying the rates, saying they are not in tandem with stagnant salaries. 

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