The Sunday News
Leonard Ncube , Victoria Falls Reporter
VICTORIA Falls City councillors have suspended Town Engineer Sherinah Sibanda on allegations of incompetence and recommended that a commission of inquiry be set up to investigate him.
This comes after another commission of inquiry recently reinstated Town Clerk Mr Ronnie Dube who had been suspended by Mayor Cllr Somveli Dlamini on allegations of gross incompetence and corruption. The commission which was chaired by the city’s former mayor Alderman Nkosilathi Jiyane said allegations against Dube were unfounded and could have been handled as an internal matter to avoid wasting ratepayers’ money through a commission and court processes.
Clr Dlamini moved the motion to suspend Eng Sibanda saying councillors had received numerous reports from residents about poor service delivery characterised by sewer pipe bursts, dangerous gulleys due to absence of storm drains among others.
The councillors convened a special council meeting last week where the resolution was made to suspend Eng Sibanda. The motion was the only item on the meeting’s agenda. The mayor told the meeting that councillors had received complaints from residents in their wards about the engineering department’s poor performance.
Clr Dlamini accused the engineer of lacking innovation saying the department should have borrowed from the city’s estate account which had US$15 million in 2019 and is lying unused.
“In terms of law the Estate Account can be used for infrastructure development and a few years back in 2019 before the introduction of the multi-currency our Estate Account had over US$15 million. As council we feel part of the money was supposed to be utilised to fund these projects. We did not come across the requisition from the department for these funds,” Clr Dlamini told the meeting.
Councillors said there are areas in Ward 4 that have been without water for more than six months, constant sewer bursts in Wards 4, 8, 9, 10 and 11 and serious gulley formation around town and the engineering department has not acted despite several reports. They said while the city has a Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) programme in the pipeline, the department must have been innovative hence Eng Sibanda must be suspended.
“A Special Council held on 27 July resolved that the town engineer be suspended from work with immediate effect pending investigations and that a commission of inquiry be assembled to look into the matter. With all these issues raised against the engineering department, council has no doubt that there is lack of supervision and incompetence from the engineer and therefore, proposes that the town clerk suspends the town engineer on conduct inconsistent with her duties.
The town clerk has to take all necessary steps required in conducting an inquiry into the allegations within the existing legal framework relating to this matter,” read a council report.
Chamber Secretary Ms Kholwani Mangena who is acting town clerk told council that the matter was a labour issue which should be handled within the provisions of the Labour Act where the suspension and inquiry should be done within 14 days. She advised that the allegations should be clearly laid down so that the respondent is given time to respond in line with natural justice.
Councillors had proposed that the members of the General Purpose Committee (GPC) constitute the commission which Ms Mangena advised that they cannot be part of the inquiry since they are the complainants.
The acting town clerk advised that some of the issues raised against town engineer were 20 years old before her engagement and advised that ideally, such complaints should come from the town clerk’s office as the supervisor and a report would have been made to council in terms of Section 140 (3) of the Urban Councils Act, but in this case the issue was brought by councillors who are the complainants and witnesses and cannot be triers of the matter.
She proposed that the council should consider engaging lawyers and professional engineers from other local authorities for the commission. The set-up of a commission was deferred to a later date. — @ncubeleon