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Zimbabwe Local Councils Seated, Despite Cabinet Dispute

The March 29 general election saw Zimbabweans choosing a president, members of the two houses of parliament and local councilors. But unlike the national government, still to be formed due to the deadlock over the allocation of vital cabinet portfolios to the ruling party and the opposition, local councils are busy at work. Tendai Maphosa has more in this report from Harare.

While the presidential election was inconclusive and the lower house election produced a hung parliament, the local government poll handed most of the main urban centers to the opposition Movement for Democratic Change led by Morgan Tsvangirai. MDC candidates were chosen in all but one of Harare's 46 wards.

The last time the MDC controlled the city was after the 2002 presidential elections. The then MDC mayor and his council were dismissed by the government.

A government-appointed commission was running Harare until the current councilors were sworn in on July 1. They have reported no serious problems working with the Zanu-PF local government minister.

But the delay in agreeing on cabinet portfolios is impacting negatively on the Harare City Council's planning. VOA spoke to Harare's deputy mayor Emmanuel Chiroto at his City Hall office.

"At all levels people are rather hesitant to make decisions," he said. "We are having our committee meetings, we are making resolutions, but all these need financial support to sustain whatever plans we have and we cannot get it when the situation is like this. We need a government like yesterday so as to alleviate the suffering of the people of this country."

But things have not been as smooth for some councils. Chiroto says his party controls the majority of councils across Zimbabwe and that does not appear to be sitting well with the Zanu-PF.

The local government minister is allowed by law to appoint a quarter of the total number of councilors in a given council as special interest representatives. Some councils have been complaining that the minister is appointing losing Zanu-PF candidates to councils. In some cases, they say, these appointments actually overturn MDC majorities.

Chiroto says the local minister has not tried to tamper with the Harare city council because of the MDC's overwhelming majority at City Hall.

"It did not happen in Harare, we never have those that actually lost the elections being appointed," he said. "I was going to find it very difficult to be working with the person that I defeated in Hatcliffe now coming here as an appointed councilor. In the rural areas these [appointed] councilors do have voting powers. They can actually change certain decisions that elected officials will have made."

But at the moment, Chiroto - like other Zimbabweans - is hoping the appointment of a new power-sharing government as agreed by the opposing parties last month, will at least bring about some clarity and an improvement for Zimbabweans.