Council workers have started panicking after Harare mayor Muchadeyi Masunda’s announcement last week that the local authority will lay off 4 000 workers.
The workers are also claiming they are now being denied loans in banks and were mulling industrial action in protest at the council decision.
“This is confusing,” said a council worker speaking on condition of anonymity. “We now cannot acquire loans from banks or open accounts in shops because they fear we can be dismissed anytime. As it stands, morale is very low in the city council and service is at its lowest ebb due to the retrenchment statements.”
But Masunda said there was no need for workers to panic as the looming retrenchments were not an overnight issue and meant to affect only those employed through a patronage system.
“There are people, incompetent people, who were employed due to patronage and not through competence,” he said.
“Those people were employed because of their allegiance to a political party and as council we are saying no to that. We want a systematic way to deal with them as they bring nothing to the city since they are not qualified for the jobs they were given by known politicians.”
Masunda said it will take time to cut the workforce to the right size and all financial institutions denying loans to workers should write to him to provide letters of assurance.
He assured the workers that their rights would not be trampled upon and said they had no need to fear.
“Those who know they are performing well have no need to fear. We want to bring in a culture of accountability and competence in the city council but on the issue of retrenching, as mayor of the city, I am the first to admit that we don’t have the finances to fund the retrenchment process,” Masunda said.
“All those employees who do an honest day’s work have no cause to be afraid. The worried employees are those who know deep in their own hearts that they were employed for reasons that are not connected with their professional capabilities.”
However, human resources committee chairperson, Panganayi Charumbira, Sunday said his committee did not know where Masunda was getting the figures of the workers to be retrenched as they were yet to receive the report of the human resources audit.
“In council we do not do things and resolutions as individuals,” he said.
“We are waiting for the report to come to the committee first then we work from there and as far as we are concerned, we do not know where the mayor is getting his facts from,” said Charumbira.
Masunda was quoted as saying the city can operate with 6 000 workers and therefore the remaining 4 000 would be retrenched.