By James Muonwa l Mashonaland West Correspondent
CITIZENS’ Coalition for Change (CCC) councillors in Chinhoyi have curiously enlisted the services of retired chamber secretary, Abel Gotora, despite battling for years to fire him in a protracted boardroom tiff over a litany of allegations, including incompetence.
As earlier reported by NewZimbabwe.com, daggers had been drawn at the predominantly CCC municipality, where a clique of “bribed” councillors was reportedly pushing to wilfully disregard standing policy over retirement.
According to sources, council retirement policy dictates that a retiree vacates office or leaves employment on the occasion of their 65th birthday.
Chinhoyi council had over the years deliberately allowed employees due for retirement by having clocked 65 years of age to stay until December.
The retirement policy came under the radar in 2023 following an external audit report, which picked the anomaly and recommended that employees retire on their birthdays to stem continued financial loss by the council.
Among employees that were set for exit in March 2023 was Gotora, who at that time had for the past seven months not reported for duty due to ill health. He only started reporting for duty a few days ahead of his retirement on March 10, 2023, when he celebrated his birthday.
If policy was to be followed Gotora’s last working day at the municipality would have effectively been in March last year, thereby putting to an end a 30-year stay at the local authority.
Sources confided in NewZimbabwe.com then that there were councillors who were curiously exhibiting a soft spot for the long-serving Russian-trained lawyer, and wanted him to hang in there until the end of 2023, which he successfully did.
As has been an unorthodox tradition and wilful violation of policy at the controversy-ridden local authority, anyone whose retirement date fell during the year only left employment on December 31 of that particular calendar year.
Gotora’s issue was set for tabling at a special council meeting on March 7, 2023, where a determination was to be made whether or not to allow him to perform duties for a further nine months.
Sources said after sensing the volatility of the matter, fuelled by the suspicion that money had exchanged hands, town clerk Maxwell Kaitano conveniently struck it off the agenda.
Resultantly, Gotora was then effectively retired last December and is awaiting payment of his retirement package, which reportedly includes a new top-of-the-range vehicle.
The last condition of service car he was awarded by the municipality was a VW Amarok valued at an average of US$80 000.
Curiously, at the first 2024 ordinary council meeting held recently, Gotora’s issue resurfaced, but this time around the CCC politicians agreed to allow the visibly infirm Zanu PF apologist to stay put for a further four months.
Gotora is an active Zanu PF member having thrown his hat in the ring to contest in primaries without any luck.
NewZimbabwe.com contacted Chinhoyi Mayor Owen Charuza who confirmed the latest development to re-hire Gotora, albeit on a contract basis.
“It is true, there was a resolution to the effect that he must be reinstated on a four-month contract basis.
“We needed somebody to occupy the seat who was equally competent since names (of possible replacements in an acting capacity) that were being thrown around did not augur well with our expectations…,” said the mayor.
Charuza said it was unlawful to advertise a post when the incumbent was still legally occupying it.
“We sought legal advice on the matter and we were told it is not permissible at labour law to advertise a post when its holder is still legally in office on a full-time basis.”
He assured residents and ratepayers council was in the process of head-hunting for a new substantive chamber secretary.
“The advert has been prepared, it is ready for flight in local newspapers and you will soon see the advert. Council hopes that before four months lapses, we will have a new chamber secretary,” Charuza said.
Like the proverbial cat that has nine lives, Gotora survived a turbulent tenure at Chinhoyi Municipality which at one time saw him face ouster on allegations he possessed dubious academic qualifications from a Russian university, which he could not physically produce allegedly arguing the transcript and certificate were destroyed in a fire.
Gotora was constantly on a collision path with councillors who wanted to expel him over an unenviable track record of being a serial loser in court cases involving the council.
Some councillors who spoke to NewZimbabwe.com accused Gotora of deliberately stifling efforts to implement a clear succession plan involving his post alleging he refused to have graduate trainees seconded to his office.
Efforts to get a comment from Gotora proved fruitless by the time of publishing.