IN Chitungwiza, roads are mostly noticeable by their absence; so is everything else — water, garbage collection, you name it.
Of course, Chitungwiza is, but a microcosm of the whole Zimbabwe that has become an eyesore. Foreign visitors have to rub their eyes in disbelief when they see the dereliction, dilapidation and desolation across the country.
Last time I went to Chitungwiza — that was a few weeks ago for a funeral — the whole place was smelling like a huge sewage pond or lake — kumazai chaiko (as people referred to the sewage pond adjacent to Mufakose township in Harare because of the pungent odour like that of rotten eggs it emitted), not to mention the decaying, rising piles of uncollected garbage. As a result, there were swarms of flies and obviously other vermin like rats thriving in those piles out of sight, but very much there, making perfect conditions for a health time bomb. I have never seen anything like that. People there, it seems, are now accustomed to it.
They are possibly resigned to it. When no solution is in sight, people desensitise themselves to such situations. Are people now inured to hardship, privation, neglect, abuse?
As one can see, Chitungwiza is one of the worst run local authorities in Zimbabwe, if not the worst. Against this shocking backdrop, Chitungwiza town clerk George Makumbe, in presenting oral evidence before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Local Government, Public Works and National Housing this week, had the gall — yes, audacity — to say his monthly salary of $4 500 — slashed from $10 000 last year — was “not a living salary for a man with so much pressure”.
Declared Makunde: “But, madam chair, let this be known that that amount, in all fairness, does not match the salary I deserve.”
Well, I would agree with Makunde on that one. Indeed he does not deserve that salary — it must be cut even further because there is nothing to show for it! It’s not about position, but performance. It’s not about the salary befitting a town clerk, but about the town clerk deserving the salary. In Zimbabwe, the tendency has been to pay the position, not the performance whereas remuneration should be performance-based. It can’t have a converse relationship with performance. Let’s not pull the cart before the horse. Generate the revenue first, then earn the money, not this upside-down way of earning money first and generating the revenue later as if an afterthought. It’s unsustainable. Salaries should rise in tandem with revenue. So, Makunde has no grounds to cry foul because his salary cannot be raised while Chitungwiza’s revenue falls. If you insist on that, something gotta give. That’s why President Robert’s Mugabe’s insistence that Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa must pay civil service bonuses when government coffers are empty has come back to haunt him.
As council’s top executive — the equivalent of a CEO — a lot rests on Makunde’s shoulders. He is there to perform. He is there to deliver. But the state of Chitungwiza speaks for itself. There is manifest evidence of incompetence and dereliction of duty. Makunde may be qualified — even overqualified — for the town clerk post, but what is qualification without ability and/or capacity?
Hiring merely on the criterion of credentials can be disastrous. For instance, it has been established that a PhD does not determine teaching ability. And Zimbabwe, with its surfeit of PhDs, is under ugly and uncivilised political turmoil to the criminal neglect of the ruined economy.
This brings us to the next point: Many local authorities are reeling because of misplaced priorities. We have Harare City Council splashing money on a mere pet project, Harare City Football Club, poaching the best players that money can buy from other clubs luring them with high earnings and allowances while council employees go unpaid for months and council pensioners have not — according to my understanding — been paid for years. Not to mention the ratepayers who are severely shortchanged as money that should be for service delivery is spent on a football team that they don’t even support. The ethicality and legality of this indulgence should be investigated. Ratepayers cannot be made to pay the sustenance of a mere football team as if that is a statutory obligation. Why should defaulting ratepayers’ property be attached for auction to probably fund the operations of Harare City Football Club?
Previous longstanding Local Government minister Ignatius Chombo is largely to blame for this stinking state of affairs in councils because the culture of greed and corruption took root under his watch. It has been jobs for the boys ever since. Municipalities have never been the same again. There is something politically incestuous about a Cabinet minister protecting council executives over and above duly elected and mandated councillors. There has also been such an incestuous relationship between Health minister David Parirenyatwa and Public Service minister Prisca Mupfumira, on the one hand, and the Premier Service Medical Aid Society which has seen the two ministers advanced big money from the civil service health insurer’s coffers while members’ contributions were not being remitted to service providers, resulting in them being denied treatment; and the ministers overriding the board over its decision to fire the managing director who had been fingered in shady deals.
All said and done, it should be mentioned that the Chitungwiza people in general have not lost their human dignity. There are still thriving communities with good neighbourliness. Looking at many houses there was aesthetically pleasing. The people haven’t lost their sense of beauty and maintenance of standards. That is positively typical of Zimbabweans if left to their own devices. When they are allowed to make their own decisions about what to do, Zimbabweans won’t disappoint. They are very much a responsible lot.
When all this bloodsucking madness is finally over — and sooner rather than later — Zimbabwe will take off to prosperous heights in no time at all.