MAYORS of major cities and towns could have their salaries hiked to US$1 000 as well as get increased benefits, while there will be no meaningful reduction in the salaries of town clerks and directors in the local authorities despite last year’s furore over “obscene salaries”.
Mayors in Zimbabwe are currently earning peanuts; with allowances ranging from US$200 to US$400. These allowances have raised concerns that they are a recipe for unbridled corruption as mayors handle huge budgets and many projects and transactions involving millions of dollars.
For instance, Harare Mayor Ben Manyenyeni Harare gets a monthly allowance of US$400 and US$50 for airtime. His deputy earns US$340 as an allowance. Bulawayo mayor Martin Moyo gets a monthly allowance of US$350, while his deputy receives US$300. Sources in local authorities said the high-earning directors and town clerks appealed to Local Government minister Ignatius Chombo not to have their salaries cut but settled for a reduction in benefits.
“Unlike other departments where government has been slashing salaries, directors in the local authorities have managed to resist the cuts. The directors and town clerks are against a blanket slashing of salaries; they want the issue dealt with at the municipality level,” said the source.
“Each council will decide their salary levels in the context of their budgets. The mayors’ salary could be increased to US$1 000 depending on the affordability of the relevant council. The position is simply that the councils will be rated according to size and the councillors’ allowances pegged according to the size or grade of council.”
There are concern among local authorities that if they were to cut salaries at the top and increase wages for workers at the bottom to the poverty datum line the wage bill would balloon.
Manyenyeni said the issue of an upward review of councillors’ allowances has been under discussion for a while with the Local Government ministry and councils associations.
Manyenyeni said: “The motivations have included the realisation that the role and extent of councillors have widened over the years. An examination of regional and international comparisons has also been submitted for benchmarking. Harare, for example, was giving allowances which are less than a third of the next lowest of the cities looked at.
“The decision rests with the minister, which is a very good arrangement because if left to ourselves we could easily give ourselves crazy figures. The only problem is that the minister takes a long time to decide.”
Harare is struggling to provide a decent service to residents amid acute water shortages, uncollected garbage and potholed roads, among a host of challenges.
Meanwhile, a recent push by Chombo to merge urban and local councils’ representative bodies with the creation of a 14-member interim executive committee for a proposed body, the Zimbabwe Local Government Association (Zilga) faces collapse as apart from the MDC-T resisting it, rural authorities are against the amalgamation which they think will largely benefit their urban counterparts.