Mashudu Netsianda, Senior Court Reporter

VICTORIA Falls councillor Richard Mguni who was recently elected the town’s mayor by councillors aligned to an MDC faction led by Mr Nelson Chamisa has gone to court challenging Government’s decision to reinstate his predecessor, Cllr Somvelo Dlamini.

Local Government and Public Works Minister July Moyo reinstated Cllr Dlamini as a councillor for Ward 9 after reversing his earlier decision declaring the seat vacant. The Minister then directed that Cllr Dlamini must revert to being Victoria Falls mayor.

Cllr Dlamini was expelled by MDC Alliance through a letter written by the party’s secretary Mr Charlton Hwende on February 24 on allegations of violating party rules and undermining protocol, leading to the Minister declaring the seat vacant.

The other 10 Victoria Falls councillors then sat as a full council meeting and elected Ward 5 Cllr Mguni as the new mayor to replace Cllr Dlamini despite the municipal management insisting that the election be deferred.

Cllr Mguni who has been a councillor since 2013, defeated Ward 4 Cllr Patricia Mwale by six votes to four. Cllr Mwale had been acting mayor since the expulsion of Cllr Dlamini.

Earlier this month, Minister Moyo reinstated Cllr Dlamini on the basis of a letter written by Mr Douglas Mwonzora who is secretary general of the MDC-T of 2014, as per the recent Supreme Court ruling which recognised Dr Thokozani Khupe as the party leader.

Cllr Mguni through his lawyers Ncube Attorney, filed an urgent chamber application at the Bulawayo High Court citing Minister Moyo, Cllr Dlamini and Victoria Falls Municipality as respondents.

In his founding affidavit, Cllr Mguni said Minister Moyo’s directive is unlawful, arguing that Cllr Dlamini lawfully vacated the office of the mayor.

“I am bringing this application in my capacity as the mayor of Victoria Falls as well as in my capacity as Ward 5 councillor under the Victoria Falls Municipality. The first respondent (Minister Moyo) in essence wants someone who resigned as a mayor to illegally hold the position contrary to the law,” he said.

“The consequence of such action is to have illegalities perpetrated by foisting a non-mayor to be mayor when councillors have lawfully elected a mayor. Such unlawfulness needs to be urgently interdicted.”

Cllr Mguni argued that his election as mayor is unassailable and its nullification by Minister Moyo is in violation of the law.

“For the first respondent to reverse the recall decision by my party in terms of section 129 (k) as read with section 278 (1) of the Constitution or his direction for an election, and my election, he has to go to court. He cannot reverse either decision legally, he needs a court order,” he said.

Cllr Mguni said reliance on the memorandum by the Victoria Falls Municipality violates his constitutional rights, including the right to seek and hold public office as set out in the political rights.

“I therefore seek an order interdicting Victoria Falls Municipality from carrying into effect the instruction of the Minister as set out in his memorandum of 12 May 2020,” he said.

In a letter dated May 5, 2020 written to Cllr Dlamini and Victoria Falls Municipality, Minister Moyo said the former mayor has been reinstated with immediate effect without loss of benefits.

“Following receipt of a letter from the secretary general of Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) stating that it is reversing your recall, I hereby withdraw my letter of 25 March 2020 dismissing you from council. You are hereby re-instated as councillor for Ward 9 Victoria Falls Municipality without loss of allowances,” said Minister Moyo.

He said Cllr Dlamini was reinstated as a councillor and as such there was no provision for an election of a new mayor. The Minister said Cllr Dlamini retains his mayoral post until the end of his term of office.

“In terms of section 316, I hereby order that the election for a new mayor of Victoria Falls is nullified and Cllr S Dlamini continues in the office,” he said.

The respondents are yet to respond.

@mashnets