By Nomalanga Moyo
SW Radio Africa
16 January 2014
Striking Harare City Council workers have returned to work following negotiations with their employer.
Workers from the local authority’s water department went on strike Monday in protest over poor working conditions and delayed payments, with some of them complaining that they had not been paid for two months.
But on Thursday the workers were back at work on the understanding that the council would stagger their salaries, according to city mayor Bernard Manyenyeni.
“Discussions are ongoing, but workers understand the plight of council and its inability to pay them on time.
“We are going to stagger the payments, and that means paying as and when we can. We have also asked the workers to make their own submissions about how we can make the council viable so that it is able to meet its obligations,” the mayor told SW Radio Africa Thursday.
Manyenyeni blamed Local Government Minister Ignatius Chombo’s debt write-off directive last year for the financial crisis at the municipality.
“These were funds that were owed to council by rate payers and although I do not want to apportion blame, the debt cancellation directive is one reason council is in this situation,” he said.
Since the debts were written off, in what many observers said was a vote-buying gimmick by the ruling ZANU PF party, many residents have been reluctant to pay their rates and the mayor said this had compounded cash problems at the council.
In the past residents have complained about the council’s billing system which they say is open to manipulation by corrupt municipal employees. The Harare Residents’ Trust has also raised concern that residents were getting billed for services such as water even for periods when there were no supplies.
Mayor Manyenyeni said the city council was upgrading the system to ensure that some of these concerns were addressed.
The council employs an estimated 10,300 workers, and 2,000 of these are in the water department.