The Sunday News
Vusumuzi Dube, Municipal Reporter
THE Bulawayo City Council will bolster security at the special council meeting for the election of the city’s mayor and deputy mayor on Tuesday after skirmishes that were experienced in the council chambers on Friday.
The local authority has further announced that the special council will be held at the Large City Hall to accommodate the huge numbers of members of the public who are expected to attend the contentious elections.
Last Friday activists linked to the Mthwakazi Republic Party disrupted council proceedings after Ward 24 councillor, Arnold Batirai pitched up late for council proceedings allegedly drunk. The activists manhandled Clr Batirai and attempted to eject him from the council chambers.
In an interview with Sunday News, the city’s Town Clerk, Mr Christopher Dube said what happened on Friday was unfortunate hence their reason to engage the Zimbabwe Republic Police to ensure security during the proceedings.
“We will certainly have heavy security because what happened on Friday is embarrassing and unfortunate. Yes, residents could have been aggrieved by the councillor’s conduct but when he is in chamber, he is protected. What I must emphasise is that we do not condone rowdy behaviour from our residents especially during council meetings.
“What we are planning to do is that we will move the Tuesday meeting to the Large City Hall after receiving a request from residents and noting the importance of this meeting, we are just going through the legal implications of this but we see nothing wrong at all,” said Mr Dube.
He said the election of the mayor and deputy mayor is key to the functioning of the local authority hence the interest by residents.
“We want to avoid excluding residents in this process because they are our key stakeholders, if you realised during the Friday meeting councillors came with their families and ward members hence the high numbers which led us to shut some of them out.
“Residents are really looking forward to this election all we have to do is assure them of their security, have a heavy police presence barricade certain areas so councillors are able to conduct their democratic right of voting for the mayor and deputy mayor without any intimidation,” said Mr Dube.
Meanwhile, Clr Batirai’s party the PDP, which is a member of the MDC Alliance, has condemned his behaviour saying they were conducting the necessary investigations to determine whether he was in the wrong or not.
The party’s deputy spokesperson, Mr Edwin Ndlovu revealed that their deputy president, Nkulumane legislator, Mr Kucaca Phulu was handling the matter.
“One thing for sure is that Clr Batirai was not supposed to come in late for such a key meeting, further he has to understand that when you seek and get public office you are forfeiting some of your rights to residents hence he was not supposed to argue with the public.
However, for now I can confirm that the matter is being handled by Mr Phulu and we will surely have a position as soon as all investigations are completed,” said Mr Ndlovu.
MDC-T provincial spokesperson Mr Gift Banda said while the skirmishes were unfortunate, but the whole matter was being blown out of proportion.
“I think people should honestly consider the rights of the councillor and the residents who voted him into office, the whole matter is honestly being blown out of proportion,” said Mr Banda.
Contacted for comment, Clr Batirai blamed the skirmishes on his ongoing feud with the former councillor of Ward 24 Gideon Mangena, who he accused of having sent the rowdy elements who attacked him.
“As you know the Alliance fielded two candidates in Ward 24, Mr Mangena and myself, after I beat him in the elections, Mr Mangena challenged the results in the courts and is still continuously fighting me therefore I believe he sent all those rowdy elements just to attack me.
“Further, council authorities only gave me the invite to attend the swearing in ceremony at 9am for a function that was beginning at 10am, which is why I unfortunately arrived late. I can tell you that my attack did not end at the council chambers, the same group kidnapped me after lunch and continued to attack me, as it is I am on my way to the police to open a case against them,” said Clr Batirai.
He said his aim was just to represent his ward without fear or favour and ensure that it be developed like every other ward in the city.
On his brief profile, the 34-year-old councillor revealed he was a university dropout after being expelled from the National University of Science and Technology for his involvement in student activism.
“I am a resident in Nketa 6 and also worked for Delta Beverages for a long period, actually I was the person who helped procure and establish the Fairbridge Chibuku Super depot.
“I resigned from Delta to be a politician full time, of which I am the PDP national youth president,” said Clr Batirai.