By Councillor Ben Manyenyeni
The news is that Government has decided to take over the payment of salaries for Harare City Council nurses – on the basis that Council is “failing” to pay them.
The move is very welcome but the background is politically disguised – the reason for this mess is wholly concealed.
In March 2013 the Minister of Local Government (NOT Council) granted Harare City employees salaries which were between 2.5 and 3.5 TIMES salaries for similar jobs.
This overpayment applied to ALL levels – not just senior employees as is often assumed by those less informed i.e. 99% of those who comment on this matter.
What this signature tragedy meant is that for the best part of 6 or so years City of Harare’s CORE business was actually paying its workers.
Council was collecting around USD13m a month and nearly $10m was going towards the bloated wage bill and its bloated headcount.
By the way the top 5 cash outlays required $19m a month.
The ratepayers of Harare lost around $500m (not RTGS-ZWL but real Bidens) in remuneration OVERPAYMENT
Very quickly the City lost its ability to function and its ability to pay salaries.
In a deadly electioneering ploy a political decision by the Minister of Local Government to write-off over $300m (Bidens proper) debts to Council in July 2013 was fatal on the dying municipal “authority”
That debt write-off was over 2 years worth of revenues gone – sending the ailing HCC into the mortuary.
Those who like maths – more than politics – will tell you that the incoming 2013 MDCA Council, which I led, stood only a 60% mathematical chance of doing whatever it would have wanted to do for the residents – just by that second stroke of a ministerial pen.
I kept saying “chisi hachieri musi wacharimwa” – “the chickens have come home to roost”.
When you put the two wicked decisions together the mathematical cost of the ministerial interference is close to USD800m.
It means that in 60 months the Minister of Local Government removed from the elected Council 60 months’ worth of revenues – get that!
PLEASE NOTE – This is a bookkeeping conversation – not even politics!
The politics of it included that because the 2 main parties in the country have strong labour links.
So the conversation about right-sizing the pay packets was rejected.
The fact that many/most of the Councillors and the 2 political parties involved had found their immediate family members on the same municipal payroll, somehow, made the conversation unpalatable.
(The most that could be attempted was to try and remove the vocal Mayor – who spent his entire term battling such poor resource allocations).
The other “clever” solution has been to sell scarce Council LAND to pay SALARIES.
As we speak:
- The nurses are not likely to like much lower Gvt level salaries
- Gvt should completely take over the ENTIRE municipal payroll – not just for nurses – for an interim period of anything between 3 and 10 years while the City recovers from the fatal interference by the Gvt over the past years.
In this very regard the Government decision is one of their best ever.
Below is the HISTORICAL chart comparison of how the payroll destroyed the municipality.
I submit that for municipalities (and MOST quasi-governement entities) the salaries rule-of-thumb, guide, is they always earn roughly mid-way between Government and Private sector – for comparable jobs.
This is reality talking – not some failed Mayor talking.
There is no way a municipal policeman should earn more than double what a ZRP constable.
Municipal salaries remain a closely guarded secret to this day.
I remain indebted to late former Deputy Minister Joel Biggie Matiza (MHDSRIP) for his bravery in backing me up and challenging his Minister to allow me and my Councillors access to Council salary figures after months of management refusal.
I quote: “With all due respect Honourable Minister, we can’t sit in this room and support that His Worship the Mayor cannot be allowed to know how much they are paying their staff”.
These brave words opened up the pay structures of Harare City Council to the Mayor and,
quite rightly, to the residents and ratepayers.
The truth shall set us free.