BY BRENNA MATENDERE
SUSPENDED Gweru town clerk Elizabeth Gwatipedza drew over $100 000 in gross salary and led a luxurious lifestyle paid for by ratepayers until her suspension by mayor Josiah Makombe last month, investigations by Southern Eye have revealed.
Gwatipedza joined council in 2016 and was offered a modest package for her services by the Tsunga Mhangami-led three-member commission which was in charge of running Gweru affairs at the time.
Former Local Government minister Saviour Kasukuwere had fired all the city’s 18 councillors on allegations of misconduct during that period.
However, on June 24, 2017 upon return of the fired councillors, after being cleared of all allegations, and the departure of the Mhangami commission, Gwatipedza pressed the city fathers, led by former mayor Charles Chikozho, for a review of her salary which at the time was pegged at US$2 752 a month. During a human resources and general-purpose committee meeting held at Town House that day, she insisted that she had signed her contract upon being promised that it would be reviewed.
Documents at hand reveal that Gwatipedza was subsequently awarded a hefty package.
Her gross salary was raised to US$4 500 monthly, translating to an annual package of $54 000. On a monthly scale, the package was raised to US$3 215 being basic salary, while US$1 285 was split in such a way that US$804 would be representation allowance and US$482 was recorded as responsibility allowance.
Gwatipedza’s new contract provided her with a vehicle of her choice for both business and private use and that the car “…will be given to her for free if normal retirement is attained prior to reaching five years”. The council bought her a Prado V6 at a cost of US$176 000.
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Part of the contract also says “… the town clerk be provided with free secure accommodation with full free services to include electricity, water and all municipal bills, 24-hour security, fixed landline ie home phone, Wi-Fi, gardening services, repairs and maintenance.”
The contract also offered Gwatipedza a serviced low-density stand and commercial or industrial stand at 10% of the cost price and she was given five years to pay for them. The sizes were stated as 2 500 square metres for a low-density suburb stand, 700 square metres for a commercial stand and 1 500 square metres for an industrial stand.
Every year, Gwatipedza was entitled to a holiday allowance of US$4 500 on top of life and health insurance paid for by council monthly.
If she dies in council employ she would be entitled to US$9 000 as bereavement fee and if her spouse or a child below 25 years die, council was supposed to pay the same amount to her.
A section of the contract also says her spouse and minor children up to the age of 24 years be covered by a non-contributory funeral scheme and medical aid.
Gwatipedza’s contract has a clause committing council to give her assistance to build a house.
Part of it read: “… that the town clerk be entitled to assistance with building materials for residential accommodation up to completion of the building at an interest rate of 1% above government lending rates to local authorities repayable over five years.”
She is also entitled to tuition fees for two of her children and … other related fees in full up to tertiary level.
Council is also bound to pay for her study leave and membership fees for a maximum of three professional boards and fund all expenses for her to attend annual conferences of the boards. The contract also provided that Gwatipedza be given a laptop, Ipad and cellphone for “… unlimited use ie the cellphone airtime should be paid in full and (the town clerk) be given the items for free after using them for two years, one year and one year respectively…”
Investigations by Southern Eye revealed that the councillors led by Makombe had failed to lay their hands on the contract since coming into office after last year’s harmonised elections. One of the 12 charges for her suspension involves that matter and is recorded in the charge sheet as “Insubordination and failure to take lawful order from council.”
Contacted for comment yesterday, Gwatipedza said: “The issues you are talking about are before a hearing (independent tribunal) which is still in progress. I am, therefore, unable to comment.”
Makombe confirmed to Southern Eye yesterday that he, together with his team, had failed to access Gwatipedza’s contract of employment since last year. “We are not in possession of the contract of the town clerk. We have asked her to avail it to us, but she did not co-operate. If it is as you are saying, we are going to sit down as council and deliberate on the matter,” he said.