Battle lines have been drawn between Zanu-PF and the MDC as the ruling party pushes to gain control of city councils.
The push to control city councils has intensified as the ruling Zanu-PF goes on the offensive to gain a foothold in the urban areas, which have predominantly been the preserve of the opposition.
Results of the July 31 election show that although Zanu-PF had gained ground in key urban areas such as Harare, Mutare and Masvingo, the MDC only managed to keep its grip on Bulawayo where it won all 12 national assembly seats and the 29 council wards.
Ignatius Chombo, who was re- appointed on September 10 as the local government rural and urban development minister, is leading the charge to wrest the control of city councils from the MDC.
He said that he still has "unfinished business" with local authorities.
"This is a new situation, a new term in which we expect Zanu-PF to deliver because we have a very clear blueprint. People expect services. We really have to start running," said Chombo.
The battle lines have been drawn after the MDC sought to impose non-elected party officials to stand as mayors in several local authorities.
Chombo seeks to block the MDC appointees
The party has nominated Obert Gutu, a lawyer, for the Harare mayorship and Mandla Nyathi, a lecturer at the National University of Science and Technology, for the same position in Bulawayo.
Chombo, however, is seeking to block the MDC appointees. He said the party lacked "seriousness" and was just being "mischievous" in its bid to impose non-elected officials.
In their court application, lawyers representing Chombo said the MDC's move violates the Constitution. They said that the Constitution is clear that only elected officials should be chosen for mayoral posts.
High court judge Francis Bere was expected to make a decision on the case this week.
But the Mail & Guardian understands from key MDC insiders that its interest in the mayoral posts was sparked by a resolution made by the party's leaders last month to stay away from participation in national government and focus their energies on service delivery in the local authorities.
In the run-up to the recent elections, Chombo suspended MDC mayors in Gwanda and Mutare and also sought to impose his own councillors drawn from his office to monitor those councils.
Lionel DeNecker and Brian James – mayors of the two respective towns – were removed by Chombo over allegations of corruption. Several MDC councillors were also fingered for corruption.
"The mayors will act as de facto governors ... being the eyes and ears of the MDC leadership. Our track record in the cities speaks for itself. We will let Zanu-PF ruin the country on its own and we will not have a part in doing that," said an MDC official who asked not to be named.
Before the elections Chombo ordered that all the country's 92 local authorities cancel debts accrued by residents from February 2009 to June this year.
Critics said that Zanu-PF was using the write-offs to try to make inroads into the cities.
Chombo justified the debt relief on the grounds that residents did not have the foreign currency to settle the rates, which ran into thousands of dollars when the country started using the United States dollar in 2009.
City councils have already complied with the directive. The Harare City Council has scrapped $330-million of debt and Bulawayo City Council has written off $46-million.
Service delivery threatened
Political observers said the ability of local councils to deliver services would weaken because the revenue base of the incoming council administrations had taken a plunge after the debt cancellations.
Meanwhile, the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority has approved debt relief to ratepayers after Chombo and Vice-President Joice Mujuru suggested that the power utility must copy the councils' directive and write off electricity debts.
The electricity relief will benefit domestic customers by not more than $160 per household bill.
"Customer bills will be proportionally adjusted and this will reflect on the October 2013 bills.
"Customers on prepaid meters will have their amortised outstanding debt adjusted accordingly. This debt relief is a once-off dispensation," the power utility said.