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Mugabe Sacks Harare's First Elected Mayor - 2004-04-17

Harare's first elected mayor was sacked by President Robert Mugabe late Friday, one year after he was suspended as mayor. Mayor Elias Mudzuri of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change was elected with a massive majority two years ago in the same election which gave Mr. Mugabe another six years in power.

Mr. Mudzuri, a civil engineer, was elected as Zimbabwe's first opposition mayor with an 80 percent majority.

But last year he was suspended without pay. Since then a government commission accused him of misconduct, mismanagement, and supporting two anti-government strikes. Mr. Mudzuri was not able to give evidence to the commission.

He said Saturday, following his formal dismissal, that he has not been given a copy of the commission's final report.

President Mugabe recently appointed a ruling Zanu-PF governor to oversee the city's affairs.

Mr. Mudzuri says under present laws a new election must be held within 90 days. He says he will make himself available as a candidate.

Until his election in 2002, Harare was run by a Zanu-PF commission. After many court applications, residents finally won the right to hold elections for mayor.

In his one year in office, Mr. Mudzuri began a clean-up of the city bureaucracy and undertook long-neglected essential repairs to Harare's infrastructure, particularly in poorer overcrowded townships.

He repeatedly warned that Harare's water and sewage systems were on the point of collapse for lack of government funds. The Movement for Democratic Change accused the government of using what it called "political muscle" to prevent Mr. Mudzuri from carrying out city reforms.

During his brief year in office, Mr. Mudzuri was arrested and imprisoned without charge twice. He has been injured at ratepayers meetings and presided over several other official functions that were broken up by riot police.