LOCAL Government minister Ignatius Chombo has refused to approve Harare’s $272 million budget for 2015 citing “obscene” salaries still being paid to top managers at Town House.
BY MOSES MATENGA
The move by Chombo divided councillors who on Thursday traded harsh words over the matter during a full council meeting.
Some councillors accused mayor Bernard Manyenyeni and his deputy Thomas Muzuva of going behind their backs to protect the managers.
Other councillors said the two were failing to furnish them with the executives’ salary schedule.
At one time council was said to be gobbling more than $500 000 monthly in salaries and allowances for council’s top 18 officials.
Councillors demanded to know why the local authority was operating without a budget with others saying it was illegal to do that.
They said council should ensure the directive from Cabinet that salaries be slashed should be enforced.
However, other councillors felt that slashing salaries and allowances for the executives would invite unnecessary lawsuits.
It emerged that Chombo wanted the salaries to be reduced to $9 000 for town clerk Tendai Mahachi from $21 000. Six Grade 2 staffers at Town House are said to be getting $19 073, while two workers in Grade 3 get $13 622 with Grade 4 staff, 32 of them, earning more than $10 000 each.
The lowest paid council employee gets at least $400 a month.
“Are we allowed to use money when the budget is not approved?
“How did managers go to the minister without us knowing?” asked councillor Norman Markham.
Council chief whip Peter Moyo warned that tampering with the executives’ salaries would open a series of labour cases that would milk council.
“Let us be careful in dealing with labour cases, we are being held at ransom because we do not have a responsibility to ensure directors earn little or more money, it is the responsibility of those who awarded them. We can be sued,” he said.
Councillor Panganai Charumbira told the mayor and his deputy that they did not have executive powers and should take along other councillors when engaging Chombo on such matters.
However, Manyenyeni said councillors were working on assumptions as he had taken some of them with him and had invited those interested to accompany him to the minister’s office.
Manyenyeni said he was still pressing for another meeting with Chombo over the same issue.
“My idea was, let’s implement it as it is, if they (the managers) want to sue, let them do so,” Manyenyeni said.
Muzuva said it was Cabinet and not Chombo which ordered the salary caps.
“It’s unfortunate people are debating without adequate information,” he said. “If minister Chombo goes against a Cabinet directive, he will be fired. He is protecting his job. When we are invited to the ministry, we are not given an agenda, it’s just a phone call to say, come to the minister’s office. I don’t even want to go there, it’s scary.”