LOCAL authorities have defied a government directive to slash salaries and perks of their top managers, saying the order was against the country’s labour laws.
BY MOSES MATENGA/BLESSED MHLANGA
Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa last week directed all local authorities and parastatals to slash salaries of their top executives to a maximum of $6 000 inclusive of allowances.
Chinamasa said the cap on salaries would run while investigations into how the bosses were awarded hefty salaries and perks were being undertaken.
The local authorities yesterday said they would not act impulsively as they would be guided by the country’s Constitution and labour laws when dealing with the issue.
But lawyer Tawanda Zhuwarara felt that the government could get away with its directive with no legal impediments.
“Section 195 sub-section 1 of the Constitution says all companies and institutions owned by the State should abide by generally accepted standards,” Zhuwarara said.
“When an individual gets $500 000 and the company can’t pay its workers, it’s not good corporate governance. It’s not just stupid, it’s illegal.”
Zhuwarara added: “If you look at it on the surface, it’s unfair, but it is legal and necessary . . . no crime might have been committed, but these salaries are tantamount to a fraud.”
Harare City Council (HCC) yesterday said it would not be shepherded into implementing the government directive without considering the consequences.
HCC human resources committee chairperson Wellington Chikombo said the issue of salaries for local authority bosses would be dealt with within the confines of the country’s Constitution and labour laws.
“Everything has to be done according to the laws of the country. It’s not about agreeing or disagreeing, it’s about the law. We are a law-abiding council and everything has to be done according to the supreme law of the country,” Chikombo said. “We have to be diligent and sober, we don’t have to approach matters with emotions because we get emotive results. We will be cautious in dealing with our (human) resource.”
Harare town clerk Tendai Mahachi was reportedly getting $37 000 in both salary and allowances, but that would be slashed to $6 000 if council implemented Chinamasa’s directive. Salaries for town clerks for Bulawayo and Victoria Falls, which stood at $9 439 and $7 352 respectively, were also supposed to be cut.
But Bulawayo mayor Martin Moyo said Chinamasa’s directive could also ignite brain drain that could heavily impact on the performance of the local authority.
“I don’t think that is right for government to impose a new salary structure on local authorities. There is an adage which says you pay peanuts, you attract monkeys. If the government imposes the announced salaries, I don’t foresee the best brains remaining in jobs,” Moyo said.
Kadoma mayor Muchineripi Chinyanganya added Chinamasa’s statement was not “implementable and also populist”.
“The minister did not only set an upward cap for salaries, but also instructed us to raise the salaries of the low-income earners to above the Poverty Datum Line ($511),” Chinyanganya said. “The question one has to ask is will local authorities will be able to afford that salary hike and for us it is almost impossible. The minister made that statement without consulting those involved. It is just populist and we can’t implement it.”
Mutare mayor Tatenda Nhamarare said the local authority was awaiting a directive from its parent ministry, the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing.
“We only heard about that issue in the newspapers, but our directives come only from the parent ministry, which is that of Local Government. We will wait to hear from them,” Nhamarare said.
There were fears that the directive could trigger a massive exodus of experienced personnel to countries such as Botswana, South Africa and Europe where they could get better salary offers.
Efforts to get a comment from Local Government minister Ignatius Chombo and Chinamasa were fruitless as their phones went unanswered.
Labour experts have, however, warned that government would be overwhelmed with lawsuits if it implemented the salary cut decision.