Elizabeth Gwatipedza

From Pindula

Elizabeth Gwatipedza moved from the Director of finance at the Town of Redcliff to become Gweru Town Clerk in 2016, after the 18 elected councillors had been suspended on allegations of misconduct, and a three person commission, led by Tsunga Mhangami, appointed to run Gweru.

Personal Details

No information could be found on her age, place of birth, or family.

School / Education

1990 – 1991 – Gokomere High, BSc Honours, Economics.
1991 – 1994 – U of Zimbabwe, BSc Economics.

Service / Career

2005 – 2009 – Redcliff Deputy Director of Finance.
2009 - 2010 – Redcliff Director of Finance.
December 2016 – Gweru Town Clerk.

Events

After commuting daily from her home in Redcliff, Elizabeth Gwatipedza, moved into her official residence in the city in April 2018. She spent a year commuting from Redcliff where she used to be the town secretary. She moved into a new house in South View suburb, low-density suburbs, but would not disclose how much was spent in buying the property. Investigations revealed that she was using approximately 160 litres of fuel monthly. Early this year mayor Charles Chikozho said it was council’s obligation to make sure that decent accommodation was secured for Gwatipedza as part of her package. Prior to that, council had made a resolution that Gwatipedza occupy the idle mayoral mansion, but rescinded that decision to uphold its 2015 decision for the white elephant to be turned into a guest house. [1]

Gweru’s main water supply, Gwenhoro Dam, was at 18 percent capacity in July 2019, and the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa) was on the verge of decommissioning it. The situation could be saved if the local authority could secure over $5 million to purchase new water pumps that could be installed at Amapongobge Dam. The city has since introduced water rationing after the pumping capacity dropped to 20 megalitres a day against the city’s demand of 60 megalitres. Ward 17 councillor Farai Muza said the water levels at Gwenhoro Dam were now critical adding that Zinwa had indicated that it will soon decommission the city’s major source of water.

Mayor Josiah Makombe said Amapongobge required five pumps for it to meet the city’s daily demand, and only one pump was functional’ Gweru Town Clerk Ms Elizabeth Gwatipedza said financial constrains were hampering council’s efforts to address the persisting water challenges. “We only received $400 000 from Government for the procurement of those pumps and it is not enough. Probably now each costs $5 million. “We engaged partners and financiers such as IDBZ, but they have told us that they were incapacitated to give us such huge sums of money, but said they could give us money to sink commercial boreholes,”. [2]

In August 2019, it was announced that Gweru had secured a US$440 000 loan from government to urgently buy four new water pumps for installation at an alternative dam. The local authority has been seeking funds for new pumps to be installed at Amapongogwe Dam which is 70% full, where it intends to extract water as the city’s main water supply dam. Gwenhoro Dam, was left with only six weeks’ supply. Last week, the city received a donation of a water pump from Unki Mines.

At a press conference mayor Josiah Makombe said he had successfully convinced government that the city was headed for disaster, hence release of the funding. “I went to the Midlands Provincial Affairs minister (Senator Larry Mavhima) and told him that I was about to declare a state of emergency in Gweru due to the water crisis. We then agreed to approach Local Government minister (July Moyo) over the issue. That is when we hatched the deal to get the fund,” he said. Makombe said the US$440 000 loan was from the disaster fund.

“Initially, we had been given an invoice of US$ 6 million by a service provider for water pumps. However, we engaged a consultant from South Africa who hunted for cheaper deals and so, that is why we got this offer.” [3]

In September 2019, town clerk Elizabeth Gwatipedza told a full council meeting the Infrastructure Development Bank of Zimbabwe (IDBZ) was no longer funding a deal to US$300 000 to Gweru City Council for the drilling of 20 commercial boreholes. “IDBZ had promised to give us US$300 000 for the sinking of boreholes with submersible pumps, but the financial institution is no longer forthcoming with the funding,”Gwatipedza said. The sinking of the commercial boreholes was going to see council treating the water before channelling it into the main water pipes.

Ward 11 councillor, Albert Chirau, accused IDBZ of being insincere after pulling out of the deal. He alleged that the bank backtracked on the deal after it lost a bid to advance US$6 million to the city for water pumps. “It (IDBZ) has thrown us under the bus. They wanted to charge us US$6 million for the same pumps we got for US$400 000 from government and after that bid failed they now backtrack in advancing us the US$300 000 for the commercial boreholes.” [4]

Parking fees in Gweru increased by 300% in the CBD, from the previous $1 for 30 minutes and $2 for one hour, to as much as $6 for one hour. In a memorandum sent to the council’s finance department headed by acting director Owen Masimba, town clerk Elizabeth Gwatipedza said the fees would come into effect 1 September 2019.

Deputy mayor Cleopas Shiri confirmed the development saying a forthcoming full council meeting would endorse the new fees. However, council insiders revealed that some councillors were not happy about management’s decision to announce the new fees before they could deliberate on the proposals. “There is going to be a heated debate on the fees and it will not come as a surprise if the full council resolves to either review downwards the fees or reverse the decision altogether,” a councillor, who requested to remain anonymous said.

Gweru Residents’ Forum director Charles Mazorodze said the new fees would pile more problems on residents, who were already suffering under the weight of economic problems facing the country. “In addition, the hiking of fees does not even translate to meaningful development of road services infrastructure including robots, which have not been working for over eight years. The municipal traffic section is a loss-making venture in that council expends more resources to collect less money and that defies logic.” [5]

Acting finance director Mr Owen Masimba was in September 2019 quoted as saying council would engage a private partner to convert the 20-roomed mayoral mansion, which has become a white elephant, into a money-spinning venture. “As part of our planned capital projects for this year, we intend to enter into a joint venture with a potential partner to turn the mayoral mansion into an accommodation and events centre,” he said. “We have set aside a budget of $300 000 to renovate the mansion, and we have since flighted an advert for expressions of interest for the project. We should be able to hire out the mansion so that it can bring revenue to council.”

The council made the resolution to hire out the mansion four years ago. The project stalled after Elizabeth Gwatipedza proposed to use it as her residence, a move that was resisted by residents. Ms Gwatipedza said council was expecting to collect significant revenue from the mansion and boost cash inflows. [6]

Elizabeth Gwatipedza joined council in 2016 and was offered a modest package (US$2 752 a month) for her services by the Tsunga Mhangami-led three-member commission which was in charge of running Gweru affairs at the time, as Local Government minister Saviour Kasukuwere had fired all the city’s 18 councillors on allegations of misconduct during that period. 24 June 2017, all the fired Cllrs returned to office after being cleared of all charges. The Commission departed. , Gwatipedza insisted to returned mayor Charles Chikozho and the Council that she had signed her contract upon being promised that it would be reviewed.

Her gross salary was then raised to US$4 500 monthly. US$3 215 being basic salary, while US$1 285 was split in such a way that US$804 would be representation allowance and US$482 was recorded as responsibility allowance. Her new contract provided:

  • a vehicle of her choice for both business and private use and that the car “…will be given to her for free if normal retirement is attained prior to reaching five years”. The council bought her a Prado V6 at a cost of US$176 000.
  • “… the town clerk be provided with free secure accommodation with full free services to include electricity, water and all municipal bills, 24-hour security, fixed landline ie home phone, Wi-Fi, gardening services, repairs and maintenance.”
  • a serviced low-density stand and commercial or industrial stand at 10% of the cost price and she was given five years to pay for them. The sizes were stated as 2 500 square metres for a low-density suburb stand, 700 square metres for a commercial stand and 1 500 square metres for an industrial stand.
  • Annual holiday allowance of US$4 500.
  • Life and health insurance paid for by council monthly. If she died in council employ she would be entitled to US$9 000 as bereavement fee and if her spouse or a child below 25 years die, council was supposed to pay the same amount to her.
  • her spouse and minor children up to the age of 24 years be covered by a non-contributory funeral scheme and medical aid.
  • a clause committing council to give her assistance to build a house. Part of it read: “… that the town clerk be entitled to assistance with building materials for residential accommodation up to completion of the building at an interest rate of 1% above government lending rates to local authorities repayable over five years.”
  • tuition fees for two of her children and … other related fees in full up to tertiary level.
  • council bound to pay for her study leave and membership fees for a maximum of three professional boards and fund all expenses for her to attend annual conferences of the boards.
  • a laptop, Ipad and cellphone for “… unlimited use ie the cellphone airtime should be paid in full and (the town clerk) be given the items for free after using them for two years, one year and one year respectively…”

Investigations revealed that the councillors led by Josiah Makombe had failed to lay their hands on the contract since coming into office after 2018 elections. “We are not in possession of the contract of the town clerk. We have asked her to avail it to us, but she did not co-operate. If it is as you are saying, we are going to sit down as council and deliberate on the matter,” he said. One of the 12 charges for her suspension involves that matter and is recorded in the charge sheet as “Insubordination and failure to take lawful order from council.” [7]

Further to the employment contract that could not be found, it is also revealed that Elizabeth Gwatipedza bought herself a mobile phone and a laptop for $150 000 using council funds, according to a September 2019 audit. Gwatipedza allegedly acquired the items without the advice of the acting procurement manager, one Muumbe, who was reportedly well-versed with procurement regulations.

And many more allegations are listed in the article. [8]

Soon after the salary story broke, residents took to social media to vent their anger on the package of the suspended town clerk, with some threatening to boycott payment of council rates in protest. Posting on the official Gweru Residents and Ratepayers’ Association (GRRA) WhatsApp group, residents questioned former mayor Charles Chikozho over the packages and demanded to know what motivated him and his team to sign the contract. “@Chikozho mayor and your guys, what inspired you to agree to such nonsense?” posted one resident. “As for me I will not pay a single cent to council. I cannot pay to feed one person,” posted another resident. Former mayor Chikozho pleaded with the residents who were fuming on the social media group: “The matter is before a disciplinary authority (and) am of the view that it’s not proper to respond … I don’t want (to) influence the proceedings at this moment.” David Chokore, the Gweru United Residents and Ratepayers Development Association leader said: “We have never and will never begrudge anyone for getting what they truly deserve. From the available reported allegations, which remain uncontested to this day, there is rampant corruption and general collapse of council service delivery.”. [9]

Gweru Mayor Josiah Makombe handed Town Clerk Elizabeth Gwatipedza her suspension letter on 14 October 2019. A special council meeting was then held to deliberate on the development. Makombe said the councillors had unanimously upheld the suspension.

Gweru council is dominated by MDC councillors and Makombe is that party’s Midlands provincial chairperson, while Gwatipedza is understood to be sympathetic to the ruling Zanu PF. Vimbai Chingwaramusee, Gweru council spokesperson, said that chamber secretary Vakai Douglas Chikwekwe is now the acting town clerk. [10]

On 17 October, Minister July Moyo said he was not briefed about the suspension of Gweru town clerk Ms Elizabeth Gwatipedza by the MDC-Alliance-led council. In an interview, Minister Moyo said he would look into the issue as a matter of urgency to ensure service delivery was not affected. “About the suspension of Gweru town clerk, I’m not aware of it, I wasn’t briefed about this alleged suspension and I’m going to look into it,” he said.

The suspension, without pay, was announced 15 October by Gweru Mayor Councillor Josiah Makombe. Mr Vakayi Douglas Chikwekwe, had assumed the post of Gweru town clerk on an interim basis. However he in turn is allegeded to have looted more than 4 500 litres of fuel from the cash strapped local authority worth over $70 000. A letter dated 15 September written to Mr Chikwekwe by Ms Gwatipedza alleging that he committed 84 counts of fuel theft after claiming more fuel than what he was entitled to.

[11]

  1. Gweru town clerk moves into new house, Newsday, Published: April 2018, Retrieved: 26 March 2020
  2. Gwenhoro Dam running dry: Zinwa, The Herald, Published: 8 July 2019, Retrieved: 26 March 2020
  3. Gweru gets US$440k to end water crisis, Newsday, Published: 2 August 2019, Retrieved: 26 March 2020
  4. IDBZ pulls the plug on Gweru boreholes deal, Newsday, Published: 14 September 2019, Retrieved: 26 March 2020
  5. Council in shock parking fees hike, The Standard, Published: 1 September 2019, Retrieved: 26 March 2020
  6. Gweru to lease mayoral mansion, The Herald, Published: 18 September 2019, Retrieved: 26 March 2020
  7. Suspended Gweru town clerk salary perks exposed, Newsday, Published: November 2019, Retrieved: 26 March 2020
  8. Town clerk buys laptop, mobile phone for $150k, Newsday, Published: 24 March 2020, Retrieved: 26 March 2020
  9. Town clerk salary sparks outrage, Newsday, Published: 1 November 2019, Retrieved: 26 March 2020
  10. Gweru councillors endorse town clerk’s suspension, Newsday, Published: 17 October 2019, Retrieved: 26 March 2020
  11. Minister in the dark on town clerk’s suspension, The Herald, Published: 17 October 2019, Retrieved: 26 March 2020