…successes, failures mark veteran municipal manager’s 32 years in council
August 26 was the last City of Masvingo full council meeting to be attended by Adolf Gusha, the veteran municipal manager who served the city in different capacities for a combined 32 years, the last 15 of them as town clerk.
The meeting did not have splendid start for Gusha, who had to be asked to adjudicate in a trivial yet serious partisan dispute pitting Zanu PF councillors Sengarai Manyanga and Wellington Mahwende on one side and MDC councillors Godfrey Kurauone and Daniel Mberikunashe on the other.
“I am glad this is my last time in a full council meeting,” Gusha said in jest as tempers flared among the antagonists.
The dispute stemmed from Manyanga’s obstinate refusal to remove the ‘ED scarf’ which he wore – arguably against the dress code of the gathering. Manyanga grudgingly took off the scarf at last, but not before delaying the meeting for about 40 minutes.
Gusha was overdue for retirement, and was initially scheduled to leave council at the end of August 2018, but for unclear reasons, he stayed on until now.
With a Bachelor of Administration degree obtained from the University of Zimbabwe (UZ) in 1982, Gusha got his first job at the then Shurugwi District Council (now called Tongogara Rural District Council) in 1983 and served for three years until 1986.
He then moved to the Midlands Provincial Administrator (PA)’s office in Gweru where he worked for one year before moving to Masvingo to take the post of deputy director of Housing and Community Services on August 01, 1987 at the age of 29.
Gusha then moved to the office of the town clerk where he served as deputy town clerk under Tsunga Morris Mhangami, the municipality’s first black town clerk.
In 1996, the post of chamber secretary was then created and all non-chief executive functions of the town clerk were transferred there. The vacancy was then advertised and Gusha applied and got the job against competition from many other candidates.
In 2003, Mhangami retired and Gusha became acting town clerk by virtue of being chamber secretary. The following year, the vacancy to find a substantive town clerk was then advertised and Gusha applied and got the job, becoming the second town clerk after independence.
Gusha did his equivalent of grade one in 1964 at the Catholic-run St Mary’s Primary School near Mukaro Mission in Gutu where his father was headmaster. He then went to Cheninga Primary School for his grade six and Bondolfi Mission for his grade seven.
He went to Gokomere Mission for his form 1-4 before proceeding to Goromonzi High School for his ‘A’ levels from 1977-1978. His classmates at Goromonzi include prominent Harare-based gastroenterologist Professor Innocent Gangaidzo and Kadoma-based veterinary surgeon Dr Sylvester Musasira.
“I came to Masvingo when I was quite young and it has been a privilege to work with many wonderful councillors, council managers and ordinary staff members who all had the best interests of Masvingo at heart. I came when Mayor Zawaira was handing over to Mayor Muzvidziwa, and they were all wonderful people who did a lot for this city,” said Gusha in an interview.
His greatest inspiration, however, seemed to be his predecessor Mhangami whom he said played a central role in laying the foundations for an accountable leadership at council.
“He is a man of honour and he was exemplary to all of us. Mr. Mhangami nurtured me and provided the leadership that has made us one of the most transparent and accountable local authorities in the country,” said Gusha.
He ruled out politics, saying he will practice farming in retirement.
Gusha also had glowing words for the city’s first black treasurer Charles Majange (Majange shopping centre derives its name from the Majange family’s pioneering businesses there) and former town engineer Finikias Rugara whom he said will forever be remembered for the roles they played in expanding the urban area.
Some of the main developmental highlights during Gusha’s time with the municipality were the building of schools, building of new suburbs and expansion of existing ones.
Before 1980, Masvingo City Council did not have any single school but it now has six primary schools, many of them built with Gusha’s input.
There is, however, an acute shortage of secondary schools as council, according to Gusha, had always wanted to focus only on primary schools and let other players build secondary schools.
“I think we have done well with our focus. We have built good primary schools whose standards in terms of facilities, enrollment and pass rates are quite remarkable.
“In terms of secondary schools, we had always wanted to take part not as active players but as facilitators. We noticed that there were authorities who could build and run secondary schools better than us. To that end, we have since resolved that a secondary school which will be built in Rujeko should be church-run. The land is there and processes are being worked on. That, however, will definitely not be enough as more land needs to be identified for more secondary schools,” said Gusha.
After 1980, Masvingo also built two clinics; Rujeko and Runyararo, which are both serving hundreds of people every week.
Rujeko high density suburb began to be planned only around 1987, and the actual building of houses in what is now known as Rujeko A only began around 1989 when Gusha was already the deputy housing director. Target Kopje, Zimre Park, Rhodene Extension, Runyararo West, ZBS and much of the newer Mucheke suburbs are all a result of the post-independence council leadership in which Gusha’s input was paramount.
“We were a very small town in the 1980s, with the 1982 census finding that there were only 32 000 people in Masvingo but we now put our estimates at 132 000. That was a phenomenal growth which came about as a result of committed leadership by the many mayors I served under, the many councillors, managers and ordinary council employees,” said Gusha.
In response to this population surge, Gusha oversaw the implementation of the Water Augmentation Phase 1 which involved expanding the water works at Bushmead to increase pumping capacity from 26 - 30 mega-litres per day beginning in 2004.
“It’s now time to implement the second phase because we still have a shortfall of 18 mega-litres,” said Gusha.
The city must pump 48 mega-litres of water every day if residents are to enjoy uninterrupted supplies.
When asked on his main regrets, Gusha said the costly legal suit which saw former council employees attach all council vehicles in 2011 could have been handled in a better manner.
“It was an unnecessary legal fight. At one point, we offered them two million dollars, and by then it was still US dollars, but they rejected the offer. They had scented victory so they turned down every other better alternative to resolve the dispute,” said Gusha.
He also said the abortive multi-million dollar Mucheke Trunk Sewer was a painful sight but added that he hoped council will be able to complete the project.
The project was due for completion in 2013 but contractual disputes have stalled it for six years now, with the deep trenches that were dug now becoming a threat to both humans and the environment.
Many of the giant fibrous pipes still lie abandoned on the veld, and are being vandalised in a clear case of administrative bungling which is costing the ratepayer millions of dollars.
Council says the cost of the project was underestimated although the contractor was paid millions of dollars upfront, but only to halt work on the project midway.
Some sources in council blame poor planning and maladministration as factors that botched the noble project.
“Nssa had initially indicated that they were willing to lend us the money needed for the supplementary budget so that we can finish the project but they have since backtracked due to the inflationary economic outlook which is not friendly to lenders,” said Gusha.
Council now says it needs around US$2 million dollars to complete the Mucheke trunk sewer project.
Gusha also said it was ‘unfortunate’ that the city’s problematic dumpsite between Runyararo West and Victoria Ranch is still yet to be relocated to a more suitable place.
“We had been given a piece of land to develop a proper landfill but government later notified us that the land had been allocated to somebody else who wanted to use it for something different. So we went back to square one,” said Gusha.
His assertions, however, contradict recent revelations in a recent full council meeting that the Ministry of Local Government admonished the council leadership being lax and for lacking seriousness in pushing for the expeditious facilitation of its projects, including the relocation of the dumpsite.
With his term coming to an effective end on September 01, 2019, it is clear that Gusha has not been able to solve the dumpsite problem in the manner he resolved the scarf problem which nearly derailed his last full council meeting.