THE proposal by Harare councillor, Jacob Mafume, to award council employees a salary hike at a time service delivery is at its lowest is not only mistimed, but demonstrates a culture of impunity that has characterised the administration of the city – where personal gain is always considered as paramount as ratepayers are neglected.
For too long, service delivery in Harare has continued to deteriorate while successive administrations of the city blew huge amounts of money on large pay cheques and luxury vehicles, among other expensive non-essentials.
In fact, Harare council is considered to be one of the highest paying institutions with most of its workers earning more than their counterparts in central government while its wage bill is more than the recommended 70:30 ratio to service delivery.
The cholera epidemic that we are battling right now, which is threatening to engulf the whole country, emanated from Harare where consistent provision of clean, potable water to residents has long been placed on the back burner.
Indeed, the city needs skilled and experienced staff, but we should not rush to put the horse before the cart. What is more critical at the moment is to ensure that resources are mobilised and invested into the city’s water reticulation system. We have a huge disaster on our hands in the face of the macabre harvest of lives by cholera, and we are thinking about pay increases? Why prioritise pay increases before finding lasting solutions to water challenges, among many others, have been implemented?
It’s a serious indictment on the city fathers that people should still be dying of such a primitive disease in this day and age, particulary in a country that is not at war. For many years, the city employees have been among some of the most highly paid by Zimbabwean standards, and we wonder what has been done so far to justify those huge salaries? In this Second Republic, this is part of a culture that should be done away with.
Granted, conditions of service have to be improved and salaries should also be fair, but that also has to be counter-balanced with the need for proper service provision to residents, many of whom continue to pay their bills, but have gone for over 20 years without running water while garbage piles up on street corners and sewage flows within the residential areas, leading to the recurrent outbreaks of waterborne diseases.
Since the era of the now discontinued executive mayors in the 1990s, sucessive administrations have come and gone but the city is still battling the same issues.
There is no progress whatsoever because of that culture and mindset where people are merely looking at how to line their pockets first.
This is a legacy that needs to be dealt with so that the city can establish a new management culture that will be beneficial to residents and ratepayers who are the primary stakeholders.