LOCAL Government and Public Works minister July Moyo has recommended the Victoria Falls City Council to come up with a robust housing policy whose absence is fueling the rampant illegal allocation of residential stands choking Zimbabwe’s foremost tourist destination, the Zimbabwe Independent can reveal.
Moyo’s wide-ranging recommendations which emanate from a probe into the conduct of the Council resulting in the local authority unprocedurally selling a stand for US$4.3 million which was tendered for US$5.8 million cast light on widespread corruption stalking Zimbabwe’s leading tourism drawcard .
Away from Moyo’s findings, the tourist destination has also been at the center of a legal dispute pitting environmentalists and firms namely Adage Success and Scanner Investments which were controversially given rights to develop: “commercial interests at the cataract and rainforest sight,” a court application filed on May 13 2022, reads.
Relating to Moyo’s latest recommendations accompanied by a report presented to council, citing Town Clerk Ronnie Dube as the kingpin behind deals stalking Victoria Falls, including the allocation of a brewery stand to Jackleberry Investments without council authority.
Dube, who last year told the Independent that he was being victimized because: “he is neither Tonga nor Nambya” is also accused of expropriating US$84,000 from the local authority’s account.
In a letter accompanying the report addressed to Victoria Falls Mayor Somveli Dhlamini on December 19, 2022, Moyo highlighted that his investigation: “unearthed several issues related to the unprocedural allocation of stands as well as poor corporate governance in your Council.”
“Given the foregoing, you are required to implement the that the council must have a housing policy in place as well as other policies for council to run properly.
“The local authority is a very strategic institution that should have systems in place and the absence of systems will expose it to manipulation and corruption,” the minister’s letter reads.
As first reported by the Independent on October 28, 2022, Moyo’s investigation team was led by Harare Metropolitan province Local Governance director Cathrine Kampila with the mandate to: “validate all issues and allegations raised in the letter of the Town Clerk’s suspension and other related matters .”
In light of the corruption allegations, Dube was suspended on September 8 last year by Dhlamini, culminating in the investigation instituted by the ministry of local government and public works.
Moyo also recommends the Dhlamini-led Council hold the Town Clerk to account for “unilaterally” approving several deals without the consent of the local authority.
“The Town Clerk must be held accountable and culpable for writing to Jackleberry informing them that they had a 15-year lease which was being processed by Council when In fact no allocation and resolution had been passed by Council. The Town Clerk must be held culpable and accountable for allocating Chinotimba Brewery to Jackleberry Investments without a Council resolution and authority,” Moyo wrote.
Dube, whose lawyers wrote to Dhlamini last year denying any wrongdoing is also accused of altering his employment contract, and as such, must be brought to book as highlighted by Moyo.
“The Town Clerk must be held accountable for variation of the employment of his contract by applying for a vehicle loan and requesting for a discount fully aware that it was not provided for.
“The Town Clerk must pay the loan in full as the Council was prejudiced US$20,075.00,” Moyo wrote, blaming Dube for presenting matters to the full council without first doing so to committees for deliberations.
Quizzed on whether he was prepared to comment on the findings and recommendations of Moyo’s report, Dube said doing so could potentially compromise council deliberations.
“We just received the report, the council is yet to deliberate on it, as such, I cannot comment, lest I jeopardize the deliberations,” he told the Independent this week.
Victoria Falls Combined Residents Association (Vifacora) Chairperson Kelvin Moyo told the Independent that following Moyo’s recommendations, all wrongdoers should be held accountable, primarily Dube due to his position as the council’s accounting officer.
“Council normally works through resolutions and those resolutions are a product of more than one person. What then becomes a point of interest is when there is no regard for procedures and resolutions to inform the rule of collective responsibility.
“The fact that everything centers on the Town Clerk is not an issue because he is the accounting officer. He is not only responsible but accountable regardless of whether he is directly or indirectly involved in matters of concern.
“Council property is our property and we are at some point entitled to know but that was never the case perhaps for the same reasons why we are here today. No one was expecting this report to be ready by now giving guidelines as to what ought to happen for the benefit of us all,” the residents’ representative said this week.
Victoria Falls’ mayor Somvelo Dhlamini told the Independent that Dube’s fate would be sealed after convening a special council meeting. “Council will convene a special full council meeting to deliberate on the findings of the inquiry team from the ministry and come up with a solution on the matter.
“What I can say as of now is that I confirm having received a report from the team of inquiry who had been given a task by the ministry to investigate a litany of allegations against the Town Clerk. Council will deliberate on these findings and Mr Dube’s fate will be decided by the council,” Dhlamini said.