By Mthulisi Mathuthu
SW Radio Africa
14 March 2014
Former Harare Mayor Muchadeyi Masunda, has provoked fury for defending Town Clerk Tendai Mahachi’s much derided salary of $37,000 a month, which he claimed was inclusive of back pay.
According to reports Masunda, who was addressing a public meeting organized by the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights Tuesday, said that unless he was ill-informed Mahachi ‘does not earn anything near that figure’. Masunda was also quoted saying ‘it never happened during my lifetime and I don’t think it is happening now.’
But civic groups and community rights activists reacted angrily to Masunda’s comments describing them as ‘reckless’, ‘insensitive’ and ‘dishonest.’
Harare Residents’ Trust director, Precious Shumba, linked the situation at Town House to Masunda’s stewardship. He said: ‘The kind of situation we have represents the height of his failure where he allowed an elite to dictate expenditure at Town House. He failed to ensure that there were strict regulations in place to control how public funds were spent.’
Chairperson of the Elected Councillors Association of Zimbabwe, Warship Dumba, said during his time as mayor Masunda hijacked the issue of salaries and took unilateral decisions. Dumba accused Masunda of starting the culture of hiding the salaries of the city bosses. He said: ‘This issue of salaries started in 2009 during the introduction of the US dollar as the medium of currency. When we, as councillors, asked how much the Town Clerk was earning Masunda said the issue of salaries is a “minefield” and we must keep away from it.’
According to reports, Masunda further defended the salaries of other Town House directors saying they were ‘commensurate with their high qualifications and experiences.’ He said there was ‘need to retain the best brains in the city.’ Masunda cited director of water engineering Christopher Zvobgo, saying people like him needed to be paid ‘handsomely’ as it would be difficult to replace them when they leave.
At the emergence of the Town House salary scam in January, reports said Zvobgo was also earning as much as Mahachi, a salary that could pay as many as 227 low earning council workers. It was also reported then that the Town House bosses were taking home a combined $500,000 when the council was struggling to pay workers and not providing services to residents.
Mahachi was suspended over the salary scam, only for local government minister Ignatius Chombo to reverse Mayor Bernard Manyenyeni’s decision within days. This week Mahachi reportedly failed to justify his salary before Parliament.