The Sunday News
Vusumuzi Dube, Municipal Reporter
BULAWAYO Mayor, Councillor Solomon Mguni has given up on a controversial bid to lease a council-owned bottle store amid growing pressure from concerned residents on the logic of awarding him the lease.
Last month, Clr Mguni had passed the first hurdle in his bid to lease a bottle store in Njube after the Finance and Development Committee passed the recommendation although in a controversial manner.
It had been revealed that councillors under the sub-committee of allocation of stands and premises had initially turned down Clr Mguni’s bid but this was overturned by the Finance and Development Committee after, Ward One councillor Mlandu Ncube threatened and ordered councillors to put their “necks on the line” for the mayor.
Clr Ncube is a known ally and confidante of the mayor.
The matter was subsequently put on hold and referred back to the committee for further deliberation with the majority of the councillors fearing a backlash from residents if they went ahead to award Clr Mguni with the lease.
However, in the latest development, Clr Mguni has since given up on the bid with councillors awarding Mr Ezweni Maphosa with the contentious bid.
Mr Maphosa had initially been awarded the lease before Clr Ncube’s intervention.
A total of 27 other individuals and organisations had expressed interest in leasing the bottle store.
Mr Maphosa will pay a monthly rental of $150.
“Thereafter it was resolved to recommend to the Finance and Development Committee: that the tender for the lease of former beer hall outlets — Njube Bottle Store be awarded to Ezweni Maphosa at his tendered bid price of $150,” reads part of the minutes.
Contacted for comment, Mr Maphosa expressed excitement that he had finally been awarded the lease.
“I am pleased that the local authority saw it fit to award me with this lease, this shows that BCC is a transparent and professional body, as residents and now partners we will forever remain confident in its operations,” said Mr Maphosa.
Commenting on his now failed application, Clr Mguni had argued that he had responded to an advertisement in the Press like any other resident.
“I forwarded my application like any other resident and when that matter was being discussed I recused myself from the meeting and I would not know whether I got the lease or not, I am eagerly awaiting the full council meeting to see whether I got it or not,” he said.
Other properties that have since been leased out by the local authority include, Waterworks Company Grant Premises, women’s clubs in Tshabalala, Njube, Sizinda, vacant former beer hall outlets in Burombo, Elangeni, Njube and Sizinda, flea market stalls and car parks.
A couple of years ago, the Government had to dispatch an investigation team to Bulawayo after it emerged that the city’s councillors were dishing out properties among themselves.
The investigation revealed that out of the 29 councillors, then, only five had not been given any council property to lease.
It was further revealed that when the councillors get the properties they default in paying rates and rentals resulting in the properties accruing debt, as council management could not take the route of evicting the councillors, for fear of victimisation.