The latest perk for every Chitungwiza town councillor and senior manager is a pair of graves each month in the council cemetery, which the councillors and managers then sell for as much as US$600 each.
According to reports, councillors are selling the graves to bereaved families exclusively in foreign currency.
Both the weird perk and the exclusive foreign currency sales breach laws.
Chitungwiza by-laws permit only the council, not the councillors, senior managers or anyone else, to sell municipal graves.
The demand for US dollars breaches national law which states that the buyer chooses the currency.
The scam was revealed by the Harare Metropolitan Secretary for Provincial Affairs and Devolution Affairs Mr Tafadzwa Muguti at a media conference on Monday.
“It is with regret that we announce that in Chitungwiza, we’re going to be instituting a probe immediately into a resolution that has been passed by the local authority, where the council has approved for graves to be given as allowances to councillors,” Mr Muguti said.
“A resolution was passed for Municipality of Chitungwiza councillors to each receive two graves as an allowance per month and they then sell the graves for US$500 to US$600 to mourners. It must be put on record that according to the law, only the local authority, through the administrative structure can be able to sell graves to mourners.”
Mr Muguti said a lot of graves were being sold outside the formal channel, thereby prejudicing the local council of thousands of dollars.
“We are asking members of the public, please do not approach councillors or any middlemen for graves and we have directed them to the Municipality of Chitungwiza to ensure that graves are easily accessible by those in mourning,” he said.
“To those who cannot afford graves, the policy on the cemetery still applies that you approach the district offices and apply for a free grave for those under social welfare and those graves are constantly being approved by my office and the respective district officers.”
According to Mr Muguti, the actions of the municipal councillors constituted a significant criminal violation under sections 171 to 174 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act, which describes this behaviour as criminal abuse of office when a person seeks to influence decisions in their favour in exchange for financial gain.
“I have to take note that all 25 councillors are guilty of this as they have all been receiving these grave allowances,” he said. “Apart from that, we also have the same situation in Harare City Council where graves are being sold from between US$300 to US$800.
“Whilst several arrests have been made there has been a spirit of non-cooperation from the City of Harare which has led to failure of prosecution of staff members that CID would have arrested.”
Graves at Warren Hills Cemetery and other places within the City of Harare, were not intended to be purchased through councillors or any other middlemen, Mr Muguti said.
Instead, members of the public are supposed to go to the finance department, which is housed at Rowan Martin Building, and make their payments in the currency of their choice.When contacted for comment yesterday, Chitungwiza Municipality spokesperson Mr Lovemore Meya neither confirm nor denied the allegations.
“I am not at work today,” Mr Meya said.
Under the Second Republic, there were no sacred cows in the fight against corruption and any Zimbabwean found dabbling in sleazy dealings would face the full wrath of the law despite their station in life or political affiliation. – The Herald