December 30, 2005

Government suspends another opposition mayor

The Zimbabwe government has officially suspended the opposition mayor of the town of Chitungwiza for alleged misconduct. Misheck Shoko is the third opposition mayor to be suspended by the government, after Harare Mayor Elias Mudzuri and Misheck Kagurabadza, the mayor of Zimbabwe's eastern border city of Mutare. The authorities claim that Shoko's suspension was necessary to stem a steep decline in services in Chitungwiza, a sprawling town located 25km south of the capital Harare. Like many other towns and cities across Zimbabwe, Chitungwiza is dogged by water and power cuts, and does not have the money or the fuel to maintain essential services. Hundreds and thousands of residents in the town have to contend with piles of uncollected garbage, burst sewage pipes, lack of power and frequent water cuts. Recently there was an outbreak of dysentery that saw dozens of people hospitalised.
Shoko's suspension is without pay or benefits, the state-controlled Herald newspaper reported. "In the absence of meaningful improvement, I have no other option but to, as I hereby do, suspend you from the office of executive mayor of Chitungwiza Municipality," a letter from Local Government Minister Ignatius Chombo was quoted as saying. Chombo blamed maladministration in the town for pollution of Harare's water source. This month studies showed that Harare's drinking water did not pass World Health Organisation (WHO) standards. Harare is now run by a state-appointed commission. Earlier this month Chombo said he would allow the commission to massively rise rates and charges for services like clinics and burials, raising a storm of protest from some city residents who say they would not be able to afford the new fees. (The Mail & Guardian, South Africa)

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