Bleak Christmas For Council Employees In Midlands

By Mark Mhukayesango

GWERU, December 12,2015.A bleak Christmas looms for council workers in the Midlands province
after going for months without pay ,with most of the local authorities
showing no signs of willingness to settle the salaries.
Christmas is a time where workers would want to spend time with family
,enjoying the end of year, but for council employees here a bitter
Christmas awaits.
All year round ,councils have been at loggerheads with employees
demanding their salaries.
Gweru workers have even gone to the extent of staging demonstrations
as workers threatened to sleep at Town House.
Workers here haven’t received their salaries for the past five months.
Speaking to Radio VOP, Gweru workers committee spokesperson , Cornelia
Selipiwe said council management have to take employee grievances
seriously.
“For the second year running we are having issues with council with
regards to our salaries. We want to enjoy Christmas like any
workers-they are taking us for granted,” said Selipiwe.
Last year council went ahead and hosted centenary celebrations,
splashing thousands of dollars whilst workers spent their Christmas
hungry.
Council also raised over $13 000 at the Mayor’s Christmas cheer fund ,
gave to charity ignoring the hungry employees.
“They have been splashing money all over so its hard to believe that
they are broke. The commission has blown $67 000 in accommodation and
allowances ,whilst we wallow in poverty,” fumed Selipiwe.
Gweru commission headed by Tsunga Mhangami has reportedly blown $67
000 in accommodation at Village lodge , food and other allowances in
four months according to council sources, but the Ministry of Local
Government have extended their stay at the Town House.
Director of Finance Edgar Mwedzi said council was working at paying
workers salaries before Christmas.
“We understand the grievances of our workers and plans are in place to
pay all grades before Christmas. We have been negotiating with the
workers committee on a payment plan considering our poor cash flows,”
said Mwedzi.
Mwedzi has often come under fire for neglecting workers’ salaries on
his priority list.
“He prioritises converting a bar into a revenue hall, spend over $20
000 yet we don’t have pay,” said Selipiwe.
In July council workers began a revenue boosting scheme where they
raised over $1 million , but council never paid their salaries.
Gweru has been forced to slash salaries in line with the ministry
requirement of 70 capital expenditure and 30 percent in salaries.
In Shurugwi , workers have gone for 5 months without pay and have
painted a gloomy Christmas whilst council management spoil themselves
with top of the range vehicles.
Council chairman, Tsungai Makore said rate payers have not been
forthcoming to pay ,hence the dip in council revenue.
“We are willing to pay our workers ,but most of our population is
unemployed and cannot pay rentals. This is the reason why we could not
pay salaries, but we will make sure that they get something for
Christmas,” said Makore.
But a workers committee representative who spoke to Radio Vop on
condition of anonymity said Makore’s executive was full of fake
promises.
“During our meeting over the past four months, they have been saying
the same thing. We are planning on taking the issue to the ministry
because our families are suffering,” said the source.
For most urban workers ,a Christmas spent in the rural areas is
worthwhile, but this year a few workers will be able to travel due to
lack of money.
In the mining town of Redclif , workers are owed $7 million by council
and are likely to sing the blues this Christmas as council seems
clueless on how to save the day.
Mayor Fred Kapuya confirmed to radio VOP that council was owing its
employees, but could not ascertain when they would receive their
salaries.
“We are owing our workers $7 million at a time most of our rate payers
are not paying up. We are owed about $20 million by rate payers and
have not been able to recoup much hence the failure to pay,” said
Kapuya.
His town has been grossly affected by the closure of Zisco Steel and
other downstream industries which were revenue boosters.
With all these councils and more failing to pay their workers, a bleak
festive season looms for municipality employees at the heart of
Zimbabwe.