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Controversy was sparked when, in a letter dated 22 November last year, the Minister of Local Government, Rural and Urban Development, Dr Ignatius Chombo, appointed Mr Fidelis Fengu, as a special interest councillor representing people living with disabilities in terms of Section 4A of the Urban Councils Act (Chapter29: 15).
Mr Fengu was however reportedly turned away by the Bulawayo City Council's Chamber Secretary, Mrs Sikhangele Zhou when he reported for duty.
Mrs Zhou allegedly said council had to first pass a resolution authorising her to allow Mr Fengu to assume duty.
In an interview yesterday, Dr Chombo said council was being "silly" and he would not tolerate its insensitivity towards people living with disabilities.
"The Bulawayo City Council was told today that Mr Fengu should be sworn in by Friday. If this does not happen, someone, most likely the Town Clerk, will be out of a job by Saturday," said Dr Chombo.
He said it was mind boggling that council would want to deny the City of Bulawayo a councillor to represent the interests of people living with disabilities.
"They are just being silly and I will not tolerate it. They just do not want people living with disabilities. Mr Fengu is a specialist in his field and would actually enhance council's service provision as far as people living with disabilities are concerned. He comes in with vast experience and expertise that council does not have," said the Minister.
Dr Chombo said the argument by council that he had exceeded his quota for special interest councillors in the city was unfounded.
"Yes, the Act stipulates that I can appoint special interest councillors, not exceeding a quarter of sitting councillors.
"I also agree that in Bulawayo, where there are 29 council wards, I can only appoint seven. Turning to the eight special interest councillors that I allegedly appointed to the city in 2008, ask them who swore in the said councillors. An appointee has to be sworn in to be officially recognised. Since those were not sworn in, it is like they were never appointed," said Dr Chombo.
He said councillors in Bulawayo were hindering progress in the city by engaging in petty politics.
Mr Nyoni could not be reached on his mobile phone for comment.
When this reporter visited his office, he was said to be out.
At a council meeting on 4 December last year, councillors resolved to write a letter to Dr Chombo seeking an explanation on Mr Fengu's appointment.
In the letter, one of the suggestions was to sue Dr Chombo over the issue, challenging the manner in which he used his discretion, as stated in the Act, to appoint Mr Fengu.
Councillors felt there was a hidden motive behind Dr Chombo's appointment.
They argued that it was senseless for the Minster to appoint a special interest councillor to the city when there was only a few months before the sitting councillors' tenure ends.
Controversy has always dogged the special interest councillors' issue, with a Bulawayo resident, Mr Billy Ncube taking Dr Chombo to court after he appointed the eight special councillors.
Mr Ncube challenged the criteria the Minister used in selecting the councillors and argued that Dr Chombo did not have the jurisdiction to make the appointments.
However, the case was weakened, when Section 4A of the Urban Councils Act (Chapter 29:15) was gazetted.
The matter is still pending in the courts.
According to the Act, special interest councillors are expected to participate in the issues of the local authority they have been appointed to, perform the same functions and be entitled to the same benefits in every respect, as an elected councillor.
However, special interest councillors do not have voting rights at council meetings.
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