February 19, 2024

Tribunal to probe Tsholotsho council staff for corruption

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Sikhumbuzo Moyo

 

TSHOLOTSHO Rural District Council has resolved to appoint an independent tribunal to investigate the operations of council staff over alleged corruption and reports that one of the two safari operators in the district has not been remitting royalties.

The council owes workers six months of the foreign exchange component of their salaries as its coffers are said to be dry due to non-remittance of safari royalties by the hunting company.
Tsholotsho RDC is also operating without a substantive leadership in its adminstration following the arrest of its chief executive officer Nkululeko Sibanda and executive officer of finance Bryton Malandule by the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission over a cocktail of charges involving abuse of office.
The duo were arrested in December and appeared before Tsholotsho resident magistrate Mr Thomas Gurajena where they were each granted $1,2 million bail.
After their arrest, they were immediately suspended from work and the council appointed internal auditor Mr Lovemore Ndlovu as acting chief executive officer. He accepted the appointment only to resign a day later over undisclosed reasons.
In a special council meeting held last week, councillors reportedly resolved to appoint a team of experts to investigate the operations of the council employees amid fears of deep-rooted corruption over the awarding of tenders.
The team will also investigate the non-remittance of royalties by one of the safari operators.
“The Tsholotsho Rural District Council has sought legal advice from a local law firm in connection with the charge laid on the suspended chief executive officer Nkululeko Sibanda and the suspended finance executive officer Bryton Malandule, as well as the resignation of the interim CEO Lovemore Ndlovu who had accepted the post of acting chief executive officer but tendered his resignation the following day,” reads a confidential report seen by our Bulawayo Bureau.
The legal experts advised the council not to interfere with ZACC investigations around the cases of Malandule and Sibanda as they could be guilty of obstructing the course of justice.
“The legal expert told council that they have to come up with a resolution on the composition of members to take part in the fact-finding mission,” reads the report.
Council chairperson, Councillor Rophas Ndlovu professed ignorance about the resolution to appoint a tribunal, but confirmed that Mathuphula Hunters were in arrears but did not reveal the amount they are owing and the period that the debt has accrued. He said the council had since engaged the operator and agreed on a payment plan.
“Mathuphula is in arrears and payment arrangements have been made between them and council. On salaries we are up to date on the RTGS component but behind by a few months on the US dollar component. We expect all salary arrears to be cleared by end of March if all goes according to plan,” said Clr Ndlovu.
While the council chairperson could not provide figures owed by Mathuphula Hunters, a councillor who requested anonymity said the safari operator owes the local authority over US$400 000.
“The initial contract was for them to pay US$300 000 per hunting season but during Covid-19 they requested a downward review of the amount citing lack of business and council agreed to review by almost half, but still they have been failing to pay despite undertaking hunting sessions in the district,” said the councillor.
The problems at the council come at a time when President Mnangagwa has ordered local authorities to regularise their operations through his ‘Call to action’ with no compromise to service delivery blueprint, which also mandated local authorities to provide their master plans, as well as undertaking valuation exercises for the properties by June 30 this year.

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