Council workers here should brace for a sad festive season, as it has emerged the local authority was unable to pay their salaries before Christmas.
For the second month running, council employees were agonisingly waiting for their salaries, which should have been paid around December 17.
Council said it was struggling to meet its wage bill of about $400 000 per month because ratepayers are defaulting.
“We are struggling with the salaries because our coffers are dry,” Kwekwe mayor Shadreck Tobaiwa said. “Our debtors are not paying their bills so workers have not been paid but we can assure you that we are pulling all stops to ensure that everyone is paid ahead of the holidays.”
The local authority said it was not collecting enough money to meet its obligations, and it was not supported by any credit lines.
“Council collects about $600 000 per month against debts of about a million dollars a month. This shows that a considerable number of ratepayers are not honouring their debts,” said council in a statement this week.
Some councillors have however dismissed the statement issued by management, saying failure to pay salaries was due to incompetence in the Treasury department.
“Last month, council collected about 55% of estimated revenue and surely if there was proper planning in that office, workers would have been paid by now. We have at times collected less than 40% of estimated revenue but still managed to pay our workers. Why are we failing now?” asked Councillor Weston Masiya.
As at October 31, ratepayers owed council over $12 million in unpaid water and service bills amid concerns that the Kwekwe Residents and Ratepayers Association, driven by secretary-general Alex Homela, was calling for a rates boycott.
“We have been consulting residents on issues related to service delivery and it is clear that we are not happy with the service council is giving us. This is why our members are not paying rates,” said Homela. “This is not a collective action yet, but we have since written to council asking them to address our concerns in the next seven days or we will make this boycott of rates a collective action.”
Sources said morale within the local authority has hit rock bottom and an unofficial go-slow has already been declared as problems mount on town clerk Emmanuel Musara.