THE City of Harare has still not resolved its dispute with suspended director of human capital Dr Cainos Chingombe who attempted to return to work this week before the acting town clerk Engineer Phakamile Mabhena Moyo barred him from office and advised him to wait for the finalisation of his case.
Dr Chingombe returned to work on Tuesday this week and immediately wrote a departmental memo informing all human capital heads of divisions and sections that he had resumed duty.
“RE: Resumption of my normal duties. The above subject matter refers. I hereby advise that I have resumed my normal duties as you Human Capital Director. Please be guided accordingly,” wrote Dr Chingombe in the memo dated November 22, 2022.
He copied the memo to chief human capital officers instructing them to advise their respective cluster departments.
However, acting town clerk Engineer Moyo swiftly responded to Dr Chingombe on the same day ordering him to stop reporting for duty as he will be invited for negotiations within three days.
“Reference is made to the above matter and particularly your memo dated 22 November 2022 which you addressed to all human capital department heads of division and section. In reference thereto, please be advised that my letter to you dated 15 November 2022 still stands. As such you are ordered to stop reporting for duty with immediate effect pending the commencement and finalisation of the negotiation process. You will be invited for the negotiations within the next three days,’ wrote Eng Moyo in his letter dated November 22, 2022.
The acting town clerk told Dr Chingombe that his purported resumption of duty was therefore a blatant violation of council resolution of October 20, 2022 and the letter from the Local Government Board dated September 14 2022.
“You are therefore advised to immediately vacate the offices. By copy of this letter, the head public safety is hereby instructed to secure the offices,” wrote Eng Moyo.
Dr Chingombe was relieved of his duties in 2017 after he was allegedly accused of misappropriating council funds (by transferring US$130 000 from council’s traditional beer levy account to his account), which were meant for the provision of water, sanitation, education and recreational services and bought himself an executive car.
However, two weeks ago Dr Chingombe and suspended finance director Mr Tendai Kwenda were acquitted of the charges by Harare magistrate Mrs Vongai Guwuriro.
The two directors were being accused of misappropriating funds meant for the provision of water, sanitation, education and recreational services and bought themselves top of the range cars.
But Mrs Guwiriro cleared Dr Chingombe and Mr Kwenda of the criminal abuse of office as public officers and theft of trust property charges.
Dr Chingombe was accused of transferring US$130 000 while Mr Kwenda was accused of transferring US$70 000 from the council’s Traditional Beer Levy Account into their respective bank accounts and bought top of the range cars.
Mrs Guwuriro acquitted the two council directors after noting that the State failed to lead evidence through its witnesses which warranted their conviction. The court also ruled that the State failed to prove that the Traditional Beer Levy Account existed after the court was told of the existence of a general account only.
Mr Kwenda was finance director while Dr Chingombe was human resource capital director at council during the time they were accused of committing the offence.
In September, the Local Government Board (LGB) ordered council Mr Kwenda and resolve its labour dispute with Dr Chingombe.
In separate letters addressed to Harare Mayor Councillor Jacob Mafume, the LGB chairperson Mr Steven Chakaipa gave the directives on the two labour disputes between the municipality and the two officials. Mr Kwenda and Dr Chingombe are two of the several City of Harare senior executives who have been on suspension for a number of years on various allegations of misconduct but continued to draw salaries and benefits from the municipality.
The unresolved labour disputes were straining council coffers as the municipality was being forced to pay the suspended directors and also pay those acting in their capacities while the labour disputes kept dragging.
Mr Kwenda was suspended in 2017 on allegations of financial abuse following a report by a tribunal set up to investigate council’s employment costs compliance and council was yet to conclude his labour case. Last year, Mr Kwenda claimed US$2,1 million from council in salary and benefits which had accumulated over the six years of his suspension.
After his suspension, Mr Kwenda was later arrested on corruption charges and allegations of transferring US$70 000 meant for the provision of water, sanitation, education and recreational services into his personal bank account and later buying a car. Mr Kwenda was alleged to have bought the Jeep Cherokee without the Minister of Local Government’s approval or a council resolution.
But the LGB said Mr Kwenda had applied the vehicle policy in operation at the City of Harare when he bought the car and should therefore be reinstated with full benefits.
“The Local Government Board met on 10 September 2022 and deliberated on council application to discharge the director of finance Mr Tendai Kwenda. The Board noted that Mr Tendai Kwenda applied the vehicle policy that was in operation at City of Harare and consequently turned down council application to discharge him. Accordingly, the Board through Resolution Number LGB12/2022 decided that council reinstate Mr Tendai Kwenda with full benefits,” wrote Mr Chakaipa in the letter dated September 16, 2022 and copied to the Secretary for Local Government and Public Works, Secretary for Provincial Affairs and Devolution Harare Province and Chief Director Local Authorities.
The City of Harare had also applied to the LGB to discharge Dr Chingombe and the board said the parties should resolve the matter and brief it on the outcome. Dr Chingombe was suspended in 2017 on allegations of double dipping, awarding monstrous retrenchment packages and awarding executives unjustified allowances. Council reinstated him and later withdrew the reinstatement and he appealed to the Labour Court against the withdrawal of his reinstatement and won his case. Harare appealed against the Labour Court ruling and lost the case.
“The Local Government Board met on 10 September 2022 and deliberated on council application to discharge the director of human capital Dr Cainos Chingombe. The Board noted that Harare City Council subsequently reinstated Dr Chingombe and later on withdrew the reinstatement. The Board also noted that Dr Chingombe appealed to the Labour Court against the withdrawal of the reinstatement and won the case. Harare City Council sought leave to appeal and lost the case.
“Accordingly, the Board through Resolution Number LGB011/2022 decided that since the matter had been resolved by the courts, Harare City Council and Dr Chingombe should settle this labour issue and inform the Board of the outcome, thereof,” wrote Mr Chakaipa, in the letter dated September 16, 2022 and copied to the Secretary for Local Government and Public Works, Secretary for Provincial Affairs and Devolution Harare Province and Chief Director Local Authorities.
A number of other top council officials are on suspension on various allegations of misconduct and these include town clerk Engineer Hosiah Chisango, Mr Stanely Ndemera who was acting finance director following the suspension of Mr Kwenda, housing director Mr Addmore Nhekairo, director of works Engineer Zvenyika Chawatama and Chamber Secretary Mr Charles Kandemiri.
All the suspended directors have been receiving their salaries and benefits in full which include fuel allowances, school fees allowances and holiday allowances further denting the city’s already parlous financial status.