MUTARE — Council employees have gone for about 10 months without salaries after revenue inflows into the municipal coffers suffered a major dip.With unemployment spiking upwards due to de-industrialisation, council workers are staying put, holging their breath for a better future.
Town Clerk, Obert Muzawazi, has accused residents of contributing to the crisis by not paying their rates on time.
Council is owed close to US$24 million by residents.
“What is happening is that people have just decided not to pay. All this has a telling effect on service delivery, for we are now crippled. We cannot do our duties properly,” said Muzawazi.
“In our budget proposal for 2014 we did not increase rates with the idea that ratepayers will find them affordable, but it seems they have decided not to pay. If everyone was paying their rates, council would have been in a position to pay workers on time as well as service the city well.”
Council workers claimed this week their management were getting their salaries on time and driving top-of-the-range vehicles while they were going unpaid.
Most of the employees are struggling to put food on the table.
The payment of tuition fees for their children is now considered a luxury as focus is now on keeping body and soul together.
The city fathers have been pleading bankruptcy citing the liquidity crunch rattling the local economy.
Government has since advised council to retrench staff to cut down on its labour costs.
In a letter to council, Local Government Minister, Ignatius Chombo, said 70 percent of the city’s budget should go towards service delivery with the 30 percent balance meeting employment costs.
Council has, however, been unable to implement the recommendation because it does not have the money to pay retrenchment packages.
Council has been failing to repair damaged roads, collect garbage as well as rehabilitate aged sewerage systems that are bursting daily due to financial constraints.
Residents are currently threatening to boycott paying rates if their concerns are not addressed within 30 days.
The United Mutare Residents and Ratepayers’ Trust has since petitioned council to urgently attend to the city’s roads, water and sewer reticulation system among other things.
Mutare’s case is not an isolated one. Nearly all councils have had their fair share of problems.