Zimbabwe's minister of local government says he has fired the mayor of Harare, who was elected a year ago on an opposition ticket. Many taxpayers have reacted angrily and said that if the mayor is forced to leave office, they will withhold payment of their monthly taxes.
Local government minister Ignatius Chombo says the mayor, Elias Mudzuri, has been fired without pay as of Wednesday. The minister said the deputy mayor, also an opposition supporter, would take over running Harare.
Mr. Chombo said the mayor had not fulfilled his duties properly and had not followed appropriate tender procedures. He did not provide any proof immediately of his accusations.
Since Mayor Mudzuri was elected by an overwhelming majority he has faced a barrage of criticism from Minister Chombo.
Mr. Mudzuri, an engineer by profession, has been attacked, has spent a weekend in jail, has been forced to live in hiding, and has seen many of his councilors and close employees arrested.
Mr. Chombo said recently that governors would be appointed by the central government to oversee the mayor of Harare as well as the mayor of the second city, Bulawayo, who also was elected on an opposition ticket.
Nothing further has been heard of that idea since it was announced.
Mayor Mudzuri says many of the tenders for goods and services provided to the city were for years handed out to friends of the ruling party, regardless of cost and quality of service.
He also said the number of city employees was inflated by appointments made in the dying days of the previous administration, which was appointed by the government. Mayor Mudzuri and his supporters went to court to force the government to hold city elections.
Thousands of taxpayers withheld their payments until the elections finally took place, on the same day as last year's presidential elections. Many telephoned local newspapers to say they would again boycott paying their taxes if the mayor was forced out.
Morgan Tsvangirai, president of the Opposition Movement for Democratic Change, said he believed Minister Chombo did not have the legal power to fire the mayor.
Mr. Chombo was recently named in a government report as one of a number of ruling party leaders who had acquired several formerly white-owned farms in contravention of official policy, which restricts individuals to one farm only.