Zim suspends MDC mayor

2005-12-30 13:34

Harare - The Zimbabwean government has officially suspended the opposition mayor of the town of Chitungwiza for alleged misconduct, the mayor said on Friday.

Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) mayor Misheck Shoko confirmed receiving a suspension letter on Thursday afternoon.

"I did receive a suspension letter yesterday at around 16:00, but then it is a victory for corruption," Shoko told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa.

Shoko becomes the third opposition mayor to be suspended by President Robert Mugabe's government, after Harare Mayor Elias Mudzuri and Misheck Kagurabadza, the mayor of Zimbabwe's eastern border city of Mutare.

The authorities said Shoko's suspension was necessary to stem a steep decline in services in Chitungwiza, a sprawling town located 25km south of the capital Harare.

Outbreak of dysentery

Like many other towns and cities across Zimbabwe, Chitungwiza is dogged by water and power cuts, and doesn't have the cash 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.

The MDC says the government wants to sideline Shoko to hide its own corrupt activities in Chitungwiza.

Harare is now run by a state-appointed commission. Earlier this month Chombo said he would allow the commission to massively hike rates and charges for services like clinics and burials, raising a storm of protest from some city residents who say they won't be able to afford the new fees.