Innocent Ruwende Senior Reporter—
Government has banned all local authorities, with immediate effect, from paying gratuities and golden handshakes to executives and senior employees following outrageous demands in exit packages and reports of rampant abuse of funds in most councils. Prime land was being parcelled out for a song to council officials as gratuities over and above the mega perks they received.
However, the new directive sets Government and the Urban Councils Association of Zimbabwe (UCAZ) on a collision course as the latter vowed to defy the directive.
In a circular addressed to all town clerks and secretaries titled “Local Authorities Circular Minute 1 of 2017 Payment of Gratuities on Termination”, Secretary for Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Engineer George Mlilo said the ministry had gazetted conditions for all local authorities.
“In view of this legal fact and because of the prevailing economic situation, desist from paying gratuities with immediate effect,” reads the letter dated May 15, 2017.
The Urban Councils Association of Zimbabwe, however, yesterday said the human resources for councils were not going to be fixed by piece-meal paragraphs targeted at ad hoc events for certain people.
“Government must deal with the elephant in the room once and for all. The whole remuneration matrix must pass the test. We are actually in the business of paying salaries – if the truth be told,” said UCAZ president and Harare Mayor Cllr Bernard Manyenyeni.
The Zimbabwe Urban and Rural Council Workers Union secretary general, Mr Bernard Dhanda, said the Urban Councils Act did not give the Ministry of Local Government or the Labour Minister the right to determine conditions of service for junior employees as they were governed by collective bargaining agreements.
“Such directives are very dangerous as they are usually solicited by town clerks and secretaries from various functions. It is illegal and in violation of the labour laws of Zimbabwe. Such decisions can only be made for the executives who are appointed by the Local Government Board,” he said.
Last year Hwange Local Board filed papers in the Labour Court challenging salary cuts arguing that Government had no mandate in directing their salaries as they were not civil servants.
They said the salaries had been agreed upon with their employer, the Hwange Local Board, hence the council had no right to reduce their salaries and allowances without their consent.
Recently, Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Minister, Saviour Kasukuwere, blocked the payment of a $300 000 golden handshake to outgoing Victoria Falls treasurer, Thembinkosi Khumalo, saying Government would not allow a situation where council employees were becoming richer than the local authorities themselves.
Speaking at a luncheon to mark the official opening of the Fourth Session of 8th Parliament of Zimbabwe, Minister Kasukuwere said local authorities were not charitable organisations.
“Gone are the days when we used to run our local authorities as charitable organisations. Just this morning we saw in the press someone is retiring, town treasurer and he is due to get $300 000.”
“I have said to the permanent secretary let us put our foot down immediately. No. If you are retiring and have served the country thanks very much you have served enough. We cannot pay you another $300 000. People are getting much richer that the authorities themselves. We need to change that trend and make sure at the end of the day services are given,” he said.
Minister Kasukuwere said the success of central government in governance terms was determined largely by the performance of local government structures adding that in the current situation, the local government sphere was fraught with socio-economic challenges that required concerted efforts of Government to improve the situation.
Former Harare town clerk Dr Tendai Mahachi, last year made headlines after demanding a hefty package.
Dr Mahachi who earned more than $27 000 monthly wanted Harare to pay him over $100 000 for every year he served among other benefits after joining council in 2007.
Dr Mahachi also wanted a council house No 9A Lanchaster Road, Belvedere and to be allowed to buy a commercial stand measuring 6 400 square metres, which he is leasing at the price equivalent to 33 percent of its value.
However, Harare offered ousted town clerk Dr Mahachi a $150 000 retirement package and an option to buy his Toyota VX Land Cruiser at book value for his contribution and service to the city.
Dr Mahachi, however, is still to get his package as the matter is still pending before the courts.
Association of Rural District Council Associations of Zimbabwe chief executive officer, Rodgers Mozhentiy last year demanded a hefty retirement package of more than $300 000, five percent of Local Government House and two top of the range vehicles.