Innocent Ruwende and Nyemudzai Kakore
Financially hamstrung local authorities are set to dip into meagre funds meant for service delivery to pay mayors and councillors after Government approved an increase of their monthly allowances by more than 200 percent. Local authorities submitted their 2016 budgets to the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing for approval last year and the increase in allowances was not factored into the budgets.
The budgets were supposed to reflect the 70:30 ratio in favour of service delivery and all salaries were supposed to be aligned to meet the ratio. The new salary increase for mayors and councillors means that councils will have to divert funds meant for service delivery to pay the city fathers.
According to a circular forwarded to all local authorities by the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing last week, the Mayor of Harare will now pocket $1 250 per month, up from $450, while his deputy pockets $840, up from $350.
Harare city committee chairpersons will earn $560, with councillors getting $550 up from $300.
The Bulawayo mayor will get $1 000, his deputy $660, committee chairpersons $450 and councillors $400. Mayors of other cities will pocket $840, their deputies $550, committee chairpersons $370 and councillors $350.
Mayors of municipalities will be awarded $600, while their deputies will receive $400. Municipality committee chairpersons will receive $360 and councillors $300. Towns and local boards mayors will get $560 and their deputies will earn $350, while their committee chairpersons will receive $300 and councillors $250.
Lupane/Chirundu mayors will get $350, deputies $280, committee chairpersons $240 and councillors $200. The highest paid councillor in all local authorities was pocketing $477, while the lowest took home $80 a month while Members of Parliament take home more than $1 900.
Harare Residents Trust chairperson Mr Precious Shumba said so far councillors have not demonstrated their real electoral value to the citizens hence they do not deserve an increase in allowances from the same ratepayers they systematically refuse to listen to.
“If they are to justifiably earn those allowances from the residents and the business sector, then it is appropriate that we demand that they are given a mandatory target number of community feedback meetings in each ward, which become part of their working conditions not the partisan meetings they prefer to official council meetings,” he said
The timing of the increases for the Mayor of Harare and his fellow councillors is inconsistent with the earnings of the majority in the areas under the jurisdiction of Harare City Council. The revenue base is shrinking.
Mr Shumba said the earnings of other council workers are far above the earnings of other employees in similar positions in Government, private sector and parastatals at a time when service delivery is deteriorating.
However, Harare Mayor Bernard Manyenyeni – who is also the Urban Council’s Association of Zimbabwe (UCAZ) president – welcomed the move and said the ceremonial titles no longer apply in terms of councillors’ actual involvement in council business.
“The role and financial demands of councillors has changed over the years. It is now a real sacrifice as the environment no longer attracts the retired businessman to serve as councillors.”
Current councillors were sacrificing careers and families to deal with all manner of community issues, he said.