MARY Mambondiyani is tired of the poor quality of life she has to endure in the Midlands province’s sprawling town of Gokwe where service delivery is almost non-existent.
Mambondiyani, a resident of Kambasha medium-density suburb, says her household last enjoyed the luxury of running water years ago as they have to rely on an unprotected well in their backyard for drinking water.
The roads in her neighbourhood are not tarred and become impassable during the rainy season.
Mambondiyani attributes Gokwe’s service delivery collapse to endemic corruption that has seen a high turnover of senior council staff whose corruption cases have featured prominently in the headlines in previous years.
“The service delivery here in Gokwe is just painfully poor,” she said.
“We have to drink water from unsafe wells that we dug in our backyards and at times the water gets contaminated by the sewer that overflows from burst pipes.
“We are supposed to be leading city lifestyles, but we are no different from the people living in the villages because there is nothing to show for it.
“What worries us the most is that we continue to hear about issues of high-profile corruption involving top officials at council, who steal money meant for service delivery.”
The deep-rooted corruption in Gokwe first came to the fore in 2019 following the arrest of former town secretary Melania Mandeya and ex-director of finance Jokonia Nyoni for a litany of cases that included fraud and abuse of office.
A Local Government ministry investigation in November 2020 made several recommendations to arrest the graft, but a two-month probe by The NewsHawks in partnership with Information for Development Trust, a non-profit organisation supporting investigative journalism in Zimbabwe and southern Africa, revealed that nothing has changed at the local authority.
The probe team led by Local Government deputy minister Marian Chombo recommended Mandeya’s sacking and the tightening of the local authority’s procurement processes, but the transparency issues remain a thorn in the flesh for the town.
Minutes of council meetings, resolutions by the local authority and interviews with disgruntled council officials placed the acting town secretary Alexander Nyandoro at the centre of the alleged latest rot that includes the siphoning of thousands of dollars.
Acting Gokwe town secretary Alexander Nyandoro is accused by councillors and corruption watchdogs of illegally pocketing US$45 000 after he billed the local authority for the use of his personal car eight years before he was appointed acting town secretary.
He claimed the money from council in September last year. Nyandoro was appointed acting town secretary in November 2021 after Local Government minister July Moyo fired Joseph Mandlokuwa under a cloud.
Mandlokuwa had replaced Mandeya. Nyandoro was touted as the broom that would sweep Gokwe clean, but this investigation can show that the situation has deteriorated on his watch.
One of the thorny issues is a 16 September 2021 council resolution in which the acting town secretary allegedly arm-twisted council, which is dominated by the Douglas Mwonzora-led MDC Alliance, to pass a resolution to pay him a staggering US$45 000 for the use of his personal car.
He has also acquired a Mazda BT50 double cab vehicle from the local authority for US$5 000 and is now driving a Ford Ranger that was bought for US$60 000 by the struggling local authority after another controversial council resolution in November last year, according to council minutes in our possession.
Nyandoro used his Mercedes-Benz E-class between 2013 and 2015 when he was still council’s chief administrative officer.
He charged council US$60 a day for two years after arguing that car hire companies would have demanded US$150 a day for the same car, council minutes show.
“From November 2013 to December 2015 Mr A Nyandoro had been using his personal vehicle for council business,” reads the unsigned council resolution in our possession.
“During that period, he was not paid for use of his personal vehicle save for the period November 2013 to January 2015 when he was paid AAA rates for trips out of Gokwe only.
“For that period Mr A Nyandoro was requesting to be paid a total of ZWL$ bank rate of US$45 000.00 calculated at a rate of US$60.00 per day.
“He was arguing that the average market rate for hiring a Mercedes-Benz E-class vehicle was US$150.00 per day. His personal vehicle was a Mercedes-Benz E-class vehicle.” The resolution added: “The acting town secretary advised that he should not be paid the ZWL$ bank rate of US$45 000.00, but should be paid using current AAA rates since the transport policy refers to AAA rates (and) not market rates.
“He said he should also be requested to forgo payment for out of Gokwe trips.” Councillors told this publication that there was no written approval from Mandeya, who was the town secretary then, to back Nyandoro’s claim that there was an agreement with council to pay him for the use of his car.
“That agreement would have stated exactly the duration in which he was going to use his personal vehicle and the charges which would be put down on paper,” said a senior council official on condition of anonymity.
“However, as it stands, there is no such paper trail.Again, there was supposed to be a council resolut ion made for that arrangement.
“That is how the council operates. That was abuse of office by Nyandoro.”
Council insiders said the arrangement did not make sense because between 2013 and 2015 the local authority did not have a shortage of pool cars, which would have forced officials to use their own cars. Investigations revealed that between 2015 and 2018, Gokwe town chairperson Esther Sengwe was allocated a Mazda BT50 registration number AAE 7029 for official use.
Insiders said Nyandoro became Sengwe’s personal driver and when her term ended in 2018 the acting town secretary misrepresented that the vehicle was allocated to him, which enabled him to buy it for US$5 000 as the book value.
A Mazda BT50 costs about US$48 000 on the market. The resolution to sell the car to Nyandoro was passed on 28 September 2021. It has emerged that the local authority boss bought the car without ministerial approval as stated in resolution 1279/21, which also paved the way for him to get the Ford Ranger.
Initially some councillors were against the resolution, which saw the issue being deferred from 16 September to 28 September 2021.
Councillors only bowed down to pressure after Nyandoro threatened legal action, official council documents show.
“After a lengthy debate of no consensus, members agreed to park the issue so that it could be discussed some other time after considering all merits of the issue,” the council minutes added.
“Nyandoro had recused himself from the debate and when he came back after he was briefed of the outcome of the matter, he expressed his displeasure and mentioned that Gokwe Town Council was a very cruel employer which was inconsiderate and heartless.
“He said according to council records this was the seventh time the issue was being discussed, with no results.
“He said he felt abused by Gokwe Town Council since he had used his personal vehicle for free to transport the then council chairperson and even the director of finance when council had no adequate vehicles.
“He informed the council that he had no other option, but to take the legal route so that the courts would give their decision.”
Obert Chinhamo, director of the Anti-Corruption Trust of Southern Africa (ACT-SA), told The NewsHawks that they had been fol lowing the developments in Gokwe with a keen interest, including the vehicles scandal.
Chinhamo said they had also investigated Nyandoro’s acquisition of the council vehicle and the payment of US$45 000 for the use of his personal vehicle, which they found to be irregular.
“Acting town secretary, Nyandoro pocketed US$45 000 as compensation for allegedly using his personal vehicle to carry out the local authority’s work,” he claimed.
“Nyandoro claimed mileage for use of his personal vehicle yet there was no such agreement with the former secretary or any other town secretary before Mandeya.
“Furthermore, there was no log book in which the mileage was being recorded. Nyandoro charged the local authority US$60 per day, which he was paid without any questions asked.”
Chinhamo said council whistleblowers told them that Nyandoro used a council vehicle at the time and there was no need for him to use his personal car.
Councillors claimed that the acting town secretary has been refusing to show them his employment contract for them to verify whether he is entitled to a car worth US$60 000.
A council official said Nyandoro’s contract as chief administration officer, which he signed in 2017 indicated that he was entitled to a car, but does not specify the value.
“He used his influence as acting town secretary to push for the US$60 000 car,” said the council official.
“The US$45 000 he pocketed for use of his personal car in 2013 and 2015 was never authorised by anyone and there are no records for that condition at our human resources offices.”
Nyandoro and Gokwe Town chairperson Never Gwanzura refused to comment and referred questions to council spokesperson Brian Kapfumvuti. Kapfumvuti defended the acquisition of the cars by the town secretary, saying it was part of his working conditions.
“The acting town secretary bought the BT50 in terms of his contract of employment and council resolutions,” he said.
“His substantive post is that of chief administrative officer.
“About the Ranger, the council bought the car in terms of his contract and council resolutions.”
Thandiwe Mlobane, the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) spokesperson, said they can only institute investigations into the matter when there is an official complaint.
Local Government spokesperson Gabriel Masvora said they will investigate the alleged corruption.
“We had not received any report from police or Zacc about corruption at Gokwe council,” Masvora said.
“Following this tip off from the media, we are going to carry out our own investigation and appropriate action will be taken on those that will be found on the wrong side of good governance. As a ministry we do not condone corruption and we are going to start our own investigation at Gokwe council.”
A January 2023 report by ACT- SA titled Advancing Personal Self-Interest At The Expense of Service Delivery in Zimbabwean Local Authorities: The Case of Gokwe Town Council obtained by The NewsHawks said law enforcement agencies were ignoring reports of graft at the local authority.
“ACT-SA decries the existence of a corruption syndicate that include local authority staff, councillors, and the law enforcement agents.
“Part of the law enforcement agents include officials in the employ of the Office of the President and Cabinet,” Chinhamo said.
“It is alleged that local authority councillors sanitise the looting by staff through illthought council resolutions and procurement decisions that are used by staff as weaponry for personal enrichment.
“As an extension of the network, the law enforcement agents are accused of a consistent onslaught against individuals or whistleblowers accused of leaking information on corruption at the local authority.”
This story was commissioned by Information for Development Trust (IDT) and published by Newshawks