DEPUTY mayors and other senior executives of Zimbabwe’s rural and urban councils this week converged on the border town of Beitbridge for a four-day capacity skills building workshop aimed at improving service delivery, and tackling the contentious issue of hefty salaries amid a deteriorating service.
Herbert Moyo/Tatenda Chitagu
The Zimbabwe Independent visited Rainbow Beitbridge Hotel which is hosting the conference but could not obtain the finer details as the local authorities were locked in closed door meetings.
However, officials who spoke anonymously for fear of breaching protocol said the conference, which started on Tuesday and ends today, also discussed modalities of creating a unified leadership for both urban and rural councils known as Zimbabwe Local Government Association (Zilga).
“It has essentially been a series of meetings to build capacity and to equip the deputy mayor, urban and rural chief executives with skills to improve service delivery. The meetings, however, also discussed modalities of creating a unified representative body for all councils.
This takes cognisance of the new local government bill which stipulates that urban and rural councils must have one representative body.” one council official said
The conference also proposed to dispense with elections to the new body and instead adopt a system of alternating the leadership between rural and urban councils.
“The feeling is that given that rural councils outnumber their urban counterparts, elections will only result in a succession of leaders drawn from rural councils. Alternating the leadership will also allow those from urban councils to lead Zilga,” said another council official.
The principal director in the Local government ministry presided over yesterday’s session but was unavailable for comment with officials indicating that he was “too busy” to do so.
The conference reportedly touched on the contentious issue of salaries and allowances, with Local Government minister Ignatius Chombo said to have softened from his earlier stance of demanding massive cuts.
“The minister has since relented saying that each council can make its own proposals. However, it must be able to justify the salaries and allowances for councillors and senior executives by presenting financial statements and figures which prove that councils can dedicate at least 70% of all expenditure to service delivery and still afford the allowances,” another official said.
Last week this paper reported that mayors of main cities and towns in the country are earning peanuts with allowances ranging from a paltry US$200 to US$400, at a time their senior employees such as town clerks rake 52 times more than them despite last year’s national outrage over “obscene” salaries.
The revelation has raised concerns among local authority circles that the low allowances are a recipe for corruption as mayors handle huge budgets, many projects and transactions involving millions of dollars.