By Nomalanga Moyo
SW Radio Africa
26 March 2014
The government’s $6,000 monthly cap on executive salaries has not been officially communicated to local authorities, amid reports that some authorities view the order as illegal.
Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa announced the salary cap at a press conference last week, following public anger at the mega salaries earned by senior officials at loss-making parastatals.
Chinamasa ordered that all State-linked institutions and local authorities immediately cut executive salaries to $6,000, including benefits, while a probe into how the salaries were awarded was undertaken.
But according to the NewsDay newspaper, some local authorities had defied Chinamasa’s directive saying it is against labour laws and the Constitution.
“Everything has to be done according to the laws of the country. It’s not about agreeing or disagreeing, it’s about the law,” Wellington Chikombo, a human resources official at Harare City Council, told the newspaper.
Kadoma Mayor Muchineripi Chinyanganya reportedly said that Chinamasa’s statement was populist and not “implementable”.
Bulawayo Mayor Martin Moyo told SW Radio Africa on Wednesday that councils had yet to receive the minister’s directive and, as such, they cannot implement that which hasn’t been officially communicated with them.
“Local authorities are not defying any directive because so far what I have heard are announcements coming through the press. We do not know what would have been the rationale used to come up with the figures that are being thrown around,” the Bulawayo Mayor said.
Moyo said the executive salaries should be a “negotiated matter” and government cannot arbitrarily pick a figure and apply it to everybody.
The Mayor said doing so would lead to an exodus of highly-skilled council staff to places where they can get better salaries.
Moyo said local authorities have in the past implemented government directives, including last year’s debt write-off order, but he said the government should do so through proper channels.
“We need to deal with this in a sane manner, bearing in mind that this is a contractual matter which could see councils being sued by employees for violating agreements”.
Harare-based lawyer Charles Kwaramba agreed with the mayor, and said Minister Chinamasa should brace himself for a legal fight.
“The issue of salaries goes directly to the roots of contracts. It is an issue whereby parties confer rights on each other and either party cannot take these away unilaterally.
“You can only vary someone’s contract with their consent otherwise that becomes an unfair labour practice,” Kwaramba added.
But lawyer Tawanda Zhuwarara told the NewsDay newspaper that the government could get away with its directive, with no legal impediments.
“Section 195 sub-section 1 of the Constitution says all companies and institutions owned by the State should abide by generally accepted standards,” Zhuwarara said.
Zhuwarara argued that when an individual earns $500,000, as in the case of Premier Medical Aid Society boss Cuthbert Dube, “and the company can’t pay its workers, it’s not good corporate governance. It’s not just stupid, it’s illegal.”