The city of Harare should be saved from vultures

The Harare Residents' Trust (HRT) has followed with keen interest developments at various Government-controlled institutions, and is left in no doubt that the massive revelations of corporate theft and looting of public resources has the blessings of senior government officials. These massive irregularities should not shock or surprise anyone but should actually make the citizens angry at being taken for granted by people who have been entrusted to run our public affairs.

Recent media reports have revealed that the Harare City Council’s Town Clerk Dr. Tendai Mahachi takes home US$37 642 excluding allowances, Zimbabwe Broadcasting Holdings Chief executive Officer Happyson Muchechetere takes home US$40 000 a month and the Chief Executive Officer of the Premier Service Medical Aid Society (PSMAS) Mr Cuthbert Dube took home US$230 000 a month before he was fired this week for gross abuse of public funds and irresponsible behavior.

Since the inception of the Inclusive Government in February 2009, the HRT has repeatedly demanded that the salaries of senior management in the City of Harare be fully disclosed to councillors and residents in the interests of public accountability. All efforts have failed to yield the desired results as senior council management have made it extremely difficult for either councillors or residents, and other stakeholders to have the full salary schedule for the Harare City Council including the secret payroll that they have hidden, in order to facilitate looting of public funds.

Informed sources in council say 70 percent of money meant for salaries is going towards hefty salaries for senior managers in Grade One up to Grade 4, while thousands of city employees from Grade 5 to Grade 16 have to share a mere 30 percent of the salaries and allowances budget. That is unfair. That is irresponsible and unaccountable management of public affairs.

State of Service Delivery in Harare:

Despite residents’ concerns on the above issues;

a. Service delivery continues to collapse with no one seemingly interested to find lasting solution.

b. Roads are heavily potholed,

c. Water delivery is inconsistent in 60 percent of the suburbs of Harare,

d. Waste management and general refuse collection is chaotic,

e. Most junior employees have always received their salaries late since 2009, and now the situation has become worse with November and December 2013 salaries outstanding to most employees,

f. The structure of council is bloated and top-heavy- 13 directors with health and finance having two directors, yet operated efficiently with around six or seven directors. This has deprived communities of essential services, and revenue inflows are very low.

HRT Position:

The organisation has been speaking for the residents in the public domain on the issues to be addressed to make Harare City Council a world class city as outlined in their Vision 2025 document. Our voice has been consistently informed by the experiences, observations and lived realities by the citizens. The time has come to facilitate the response of the residents to deal decisively with a management that take residents for granted, hiding behind huge desks and flamboyant behavior when all around them is collapsing. The HRT will not be held responsible for residents’ actions at community level. We have empowered the citizens, and the citizens know what is right for them.

Going Forward:

– The Urban Councils Act (Chapter 29.15) and other local government legislation must be realigned to the Chapter 14 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, which requires the establishment of the Harare Metropolitan Council, bringing together House of Assembly representatives, Senators, the Chairperson and deputy Chairperson of Ruwa and Epworth Local Government Boards, and the Mayors of Harare and Chitungwiza municipalities and their deputies. The immediate enforcement of constitutional institutions should also serve to counter the influence of unelected officials in the management of public affairs.

– The ceremonial mayorship is a disaster and serious consideration should be given to reevaluate their role in the provision of public services by local authorities and critique it against the expressed expectations of the citizenry when it comes to service provision. The insignificant influence and power and authority of elected councillors over the management of councils across Zimbabwe is a serious hindrance to progressive project implementation and setting development priorities.

– Local government should be depoliticized in order to fully serve the ratepayer.

– Residents have a right to withhold their money towards payment of monthly bills in rates and rentals, until the Town Clerk has either been suspended or resigned in shame at his huge failure to run the affairs of Harare City Council. While the HRT has not yet reached a decision to mobilize residents to suspend payment of bills, the organisation has been holding intensive consultations and will make its position known in due course.

– It needs to be noted that residents, who have become aware of these abnormal salaries in a sea of poverty have already started leading the way by not visiting the community district offices to make any payments. They are frustrated and are very angry with the council for being irresponsible and unaccountable when it comes to public funds.

– The City of Harare should come up with project priorities and development targets that relate to the incomes of the majority of the citizens who have to fund the operations of the council at the end of the day. The income of senior management is a mockery to the realization of the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Social-Economic Transformation (ZIMASSET) economic blueprint which emphasizes on performance related targets and contracts.

– The City of Harare must comply with national development priorities and goals. When the electorate is angry and disappointed, ultimately the government is viewed negatively and loses the support of the ratepayers.

– The HRT commends today’s move (30 January 2014) by His Worship, the Mayor of Harare, Councillor Bernard Manyenyeni and his Council for suspending the Town Clerk –Dr. Tendai Mahachi for refusing to cooperate with the Mayor and his Council when they requested him to furnish them with salaries schedules for senior council management, including his. The suspension will be for three months, during which time the council will fully investigate the conduct of the Town Clerk and the handling of council’s finances during his tenure of office.

– The HRT now expects the Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet, Dr Misheck Sibanda, in conjunction with Dr Ignatius Chombo to widen the probe into all local authorities’ senior management salaries starting with the affairs of the Harare City Council. The investigation must be led by House of Assembly members, to include councillors in Human Resources Committee, residents’ organisations, the Anti-Corruption Commission and independent local government experts and officials representing the Minister of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing. This should serve as a confidence building measure within the market and among the citizenry and all local government stakeholders, and protect the electorate against further abuse of authority and power at the hands of irresponsible and unaccountable council management.

– The salaries of all council staff should be linked to the revenue sources, and the capacity of the council to raise the revenue from those sources.

Statement Issued by the HRT in the public interest

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