FURORE that has erupted at the Harare City Council (HCC) over the termination of Tendai Mahachi’s contract is likely to open a can of worms into the municipality’s financial affairs.
Mahachi was given his marching order as Town Clerk last week using the July 17 Supreme Court ruling that allowed employers to terminate workers’ contracts on three months’ notice.
President Robert Mugabe has since assented to the Labour Amendment Bill to give it legal effect and stop employers from using a common law position that allowed them to fire workers willy-nilly.
Mahachi had been suspended a few weeks earlier to pave way for investigations into his handling of council affairs.
Days before the termination of his contract, he presented council with 22 demands amounting to US$3 million as his exit package.
The Financial Gazette can now report that the Harare Municipal Workers’ Union (HMWU) has come out guns blazing to allege that council was not as broke as it would want residents to believe.
Relatively obscure over the years, HMWU is also claiming that revenue generated from council’s farms was not being properly accounted for.
In the last few years, council had a vibrant business entity which included ranches where quality cattle were bred.
The cattle would be sold to abattoirs when the need arose and the proceeds would be used to fix and maintain sewer and water reticulation plants, giving council the financial self-sustainability it required.
But the once thriving cattle farms where thousands of cattle could be seen roaming freely in the plush evergreen pastures on the outskirts of the capital, particularly Budiriro and Kuwadzana, now resemble barren swathes of land.
In a letter to Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Minister, Saviour Kasukuwere, HMWU said the city should explain where income from cattle sales is going.
The union said it discovered during an investigation that cattle were being sold in the middle of the night and without relevant documentation as is required by the law.
It alleges over 1 000 cattle have been sold this way, claiming they have video evidence of the interviews conducted with the workers.
The union said council recorded a US$40 million surplus during the first quarter of this year, which places it on sound financial footing to be able to afford paying its workers as well as providing basic services to residents.
The workers have requested the minister’s intervention after August salaries for workers in grades five to 16 were withheld to enable council to pay off workers it had recently fired, as well as to cater for Mahachi’s contested US$3 million exit package.
“The Town Clerk’s claim as the city’s principal officer vindicates the employee’s claim as buttressed by the City of Harare’s finance and development committee minutes dated 16th April 2015, which declared a surplus of more than US$40 million for the 1st quarter of 2015 and also revealed that the city’s monthly income had risen from around US$7 million to US$8 million to US$14 million plus, excluding income from City Park and Easi Park where the city should be getting over 60 percent to 70 percent of their monthly income with 30 percent being deployed as recurrent expenditure; but it is surprising that for the past three to five years they have not paid anything to the main sole share holder City of Harare and we wonder as to where their income is going since it’s the City of Harare which created the infrastructure i.e. roads and parkades, which they use to collect revenue,” partly reads the letter to Kasukuwere.