ZIMBABWE – The High Court has ordered Minister of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Saviour Kasukuwere to re-instate 11 Gweru councillors who were suspended indefinitely for abuse of office.
The councillors, including Mayor Hamutendi Kombayi, were suspended on August 12 last year on allegations of gross misconduct, incompetence and mismanagement of council funds and affairs.
Bulawayo High Court judge Justice Francis Bere last week granted a final order in favour of the 11 councillors. He declared their suspensions null and void saying they were not allowed by the constitution.
The order followed an urgent chamber application filed by Clr Kombayi and the 10 councillors seeking to nullify their suspension.
Justice Bere agreed with the councillors’ lawyers led by Mr Reginald Chidawanyika who had argued that Minister Kasukuwere’s suspension of the councillors and the appointment of a tribunal to look into allegations of abuse of office and corruption against them were in contravention of the provisions of the new Constitution.
He said section 114 of the Urban Councils Act, which the minister used to suspend the councillors and appoint a tribunal, was inconsistent with section 278 of the Constitution.
“Where a law is in clear violation of the constitution, it falls away,” Justice Bere said.
The High Court had earlier granted a provisional order setting aside the suspensions as well as stopping proceedings of the tribunal.
Justice Bere said despite the applicants’ approach to the court for redress, Minister Kasukuwere had not shown any attempt to comply with the provisions of the constitution adding that it was the duty of the Court to keep the executive in check.
He declared proceedings presided over by the tribunal, appointment of the commission and the letters of suspension issued on August 12 as null and void.
The judge ordered the Minister and the Midlands provincial administrator, cited as second respondents, to bear costs of the suit. Justice Bere said Justice Nokuthula Moyo, who had issued a provisional order in favour of the councillors, was justified in that the section of the Urban Councils Act that was used to suspend the city fathers contravened the Constitution.
Justice Moyo, in her ruling, said the Constitution is the supreme law of the land and any law or Act which is inconsistent with it has no force or effect. It was all smiles as the councillors celebrated their second victory at the court.
One of the councillors’ lawyers, Leopold Mudisi, said he was happy with the ruling which he said showed the court upheld the Constitution.
“We are very happy. The most important thing from this outcome is the upholding of the Constitution, which is very positive,” said Mudisi.
Minister Kasukuwere suspended 18 councillors including Mr Kombayi in August last year for abuse of office. However, only 11 of them appealed against their suspension. Thereafter the minister appointed a three-man caretaker commission chaired by Mr Tsunga Mhangami to oversee council business while the councillors were on suspension.