CHITUNGWIZA council workers yesterday besieged the town’s head office demanding their salary arrears for the past 13 months, forcing officials to flee their offices fearing for their lives.
MOSES MATENGA/VIMBAI MARUFU
The angry workers berated town clerk George Makunde, saying he was acting like a “devil” and neglecting the workers who had now been reduced to destitution.
They claimed that more than 22 workers had died since January after failing to acquire money for health care, indicating the seriousness of their mounting woes at the hands of council management.
The placard-holding workers said society had now “condemned” them while most of them have been chucked out of their lodgings for failure to pay rentals. Makunde, however, said the situation in the dormitory town had turned into a “war”, suspecting that land barons were sponsoring the mayhem as a desperate attempt to access council database in order to continue with their illegal acts.
He said the council was in a dire situation and needed $8 million to pay the workers. Makunde said workers knew of council’s plight and future plans, hence his suspicion of the land barons’ hand in the skirmishes.
“More than 22 workers have died since January because of lack of money for health care. We are tired of being used by these people. The councillors and management continue to pay themselves huge amounts of money and allowances while our children are not going to school,” Elijah Nyekete, one of the workers, said.
Business came to a halt at the head office with several people who had come to make payments stranded as there was no one to assist them.
Chairman of the Zimbabwe Urban Council Workers’ Union Ephraim Katsina accused council management of withholding salaries with the intention of retrenching workers first.
“We won an arbitration award and it was supposed to end by June 30, but they haven’t given us our money as yet, not because they don’t have the money, but they want to retrench workers first,” he said.
Appearing before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Public Works, Labour and Social Welfare this week, Makunde said the officials were operating in a hostile environment.
“We are operating in a hostile environment in Chitungwiza. They are a very militant workforce. Our employees have an antagonistic approach. The situation is very bad. We have had to force ladies to work from home. It’s not a conducive environment at all,” Makunde said.
Yesterday, he said the situation was still tense.
“We can’t get the money now and that is why we have engaged in a stern measure to raise about $8 million to pay our staff. We are alive to that situation and we will continue to engage. The strike is not legal because we were summoned to the Ministry of Labour on July 8 and that was communicated to the workers,” he added.
Asked whether he and other officials were still afraid to go to office, he said: “I think you saw a banner written that I was a devil, how then do you expect to go there when there is such.
There is a war with land barons so right now they want to find a way of fighting the town clerk because I have been a stumbling block for them to access database.
“There is no illegal stand getting into our system like they used to do and it’s a war now because they are in trouble and want to deal with me so that they gain access.”