HARARE, June 8 (The Source) – Government on Tuesday suspended Harare Mayor Bernard Manyenyeni, just as he reported for work after the end of an earlier suspension.
According to his letter of suspension, Manyenyeni is accused of standing in the way of an audit ordered by Local Government Minister Saviour Kasukuwere in 2015, and a subsequent recommendation by the Auditor General to audit council’s business operations.
We trace here the events over the past few years that have led to the revolving doors at Town House:
- In 2009, the City of Harare and Easihold of South Africa form Easipark, a joint venture parking business to operate in parts of the Harare city centre.
- In 2013, it is alleged that $1.2 million has been stolen from Easipark company accounts and no dividends have been paid by Easipark to council. Council and EasiHold finally agree to end their partnership in 2015, with Harare paying $274,000 to the South African firm. City Parking, wholly owned by council, is now in charge of parking in Harare. The new company gets a startup loan of $1,1 million from ZB Bank.
- In January 2015, the City’s audit committee says the parking business earned $479,000 in the previous year, but that council could have earned more were it not for the corruption it unearthed in the operation.
- In July 2015, Kasukuwere writes to mayor Manyenyeni, saying he was “disturbed by a number of reports emanating from various sources about issues of corruption at Easipark and City Parking”. Kasukuwere said “it would appear that these allegations may be true due to the absence of any audit report for these entities in recent years”. He then ordered that council engage forensic auditors within two weeks of his letter. He demanded an interim report within six weeks of his order.
- In September 2015, acting town clerk Josephine Ncube writes to the Auditor-General, to “engage your office to appoint the forensic auditors following laid down procedures as prescribed by your office”. The AG advises that an audit should be broadened to include all council’s business operations. The AG wants the audit to examine the city’s governance, performance and operational issues as well as its organisational structures.
- The AG floats a tender for the audit, which goes to PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC).
- Soon after, PwC’s Thompson Mucheki writes to council’s internal auditor, Joseph Danny Issa, seeking information required to begin a “comprehensive forensic audit”. Among 40 items demanded by PwC are the profit and loss accounts of the parking business, balance sheets and cash flow statements dating back to 2009. The auditor also demanded board minutes of council committees, details of allowances and salaries and other details. These last requests met with strong opposition by councillors, who resisted the audit. The audit was to begin April 2016.
- On April 20, 2016, Manyenyeni is suspended after he employed James Mushore as town clerk, despite Kasukuwere’s opposition. Kasukuwere accuses the Mayor of violating the Urban Councils Act. The Mayor appeals against his suspension in court. He argues that, under the law, a mayor can only be removed by a tribunal. However, in a surprise judgment, a judge ruled that the Minister acted lawfully, and Manyenyeni could return to work after his 45-day suspension.
- In May 2016, MDC-T secretary general Douglas Mwonzora is quoted as saying his party saw the audit as a “malicious” ploy by Kasukuwere to weaken its hold on Harare.
- The audit, he says, is part of “political games aimed at reversing the gains of the MDC-T as the ruling party in all major cities and towns in the country”. The auditors were “bloodhounds” in a strategy to unseat the MDC-T’s elected councillors.
- City Parking, Mwonzora said, was a private limited company governed by the Companies Act and the Auditor General had no jurisdiction over private companies. The appointment of PwC was “irregular, unprocedural and therefore a nullity at law”. Mwonzora said the audit had gone beyond investigating the parking business to include matters relating to councillors benefits, council attendance registers and council minutes.
- As his suspension expires, acting Local Government Minister Jonathan Moyo writes to Manyenyeni, “to reinstate you as Mayor of the City of Harare and Councillor for Ward 17 with effect from 7 June, 2016”.
- Just as he turned up for work on June 7, Manyenyeni is again suspended. The letter of suspension accuses him of stalling the audit into council’s parking business, and of not heeding the Auditor General’s recommended audit into Sunshine Holdings, which houses council’s business entities. Without providing detail, the Ministry claims Manyenyeni “in fact instructed officials who manage these entities not to allow the audit”.
- Manyenyeni reacts to the new suspension, saying he has no authority over the companies he was supposed to audit. “I have been suspended again for not doing the corruption audit for city parking and Harare Sunshine Holdings. These are entities with their own boards and audits and not under the control of the mayor.”