City of Masvingo is spending thousands of US dollars fighting the return of Tawanda Gozo, the city engineer it fired in 2021 but was reinstated by the Local Government Board (LGB).
With the full backing of council, the mayor, Collen Maboke fired Gozo two years ago after a panel appointed to investigate his suitability to hold office found him grossly incompetent following a serious January 2021 water crisis.
Council blamed it on recklessness of the engineering department.
Prior to his dismissal, Gozo had been put on suspension with full pay for six months.
Gozo, however, took up the case with the LGB which, in January this year, ordered his reinstatement but council decided to appeal the decision at the Administrative Court.
Gozo is yet to report for work as the court has not made a ruling and, according to close sources, council is forking out thousands of dollars in legal fees paid to Kwekwe-based Muwadze and Mujaya Legal Practitioners.
Town officials, though, refused to divulge the money council had already paid in legal fees over the case.
However, given that this is a protracted case, the figure is estimated to run into numerous thousands.
A councillor who preferred anonymity said council was misdirecting itself by committing “a lot of money” on a case which it would probably lose.
“Many councillors feel that the case is lost and Gozo should be allowed to resume his duties but management seems bent on fighting old battles. It’s not worth it because Gozo is most likely to win and we will not have a good explanation to make to ratepayers,” said the councillor.
Another councillor said it seemed, after all, that the council management was budgeting for Gozo’s return because they had left his position vacant.
“They have hired a deputy city engineer who currently is deputising nobody. They know that it would explode in their face should Gozo win the case and come back to find his job taken,” said the councillor.
After Gozo’s suspension and subsequent dismissal, the city appointed Kudzai Mbetu as acting engineer but council later made him substantive from early January this year.
Gozo told NewsHub that he was not authorised to speak to the media.
The town clerk, Edward Mukaratirwa, who used to deputise Gozo in the engineering department, and with whom he reportedly had an acrimonious relationship, said: “There are issues that are being ironed out, and as you may know, the case is still before the courts, so we cannot fill that position as yet,” said Mukaratirwa.
He said council had firm grounds to appeal the decision by the LGB.
“Council’s position is that the Local Government Board based its decision on issues that it has no jurisdiction over, and that is why the case is now before the Administrative Court. We expect the court to sit any time soon,” said Mukaratirwa.
He said the duties of city engineer will continue to be handled by Mbetu till all issues were finalised.