THE outlandishly lavish exit package demanded by suspended Harare town clerk Tendai Mahachi is a window unto the utopian island inhabited by a minority rapacious elite in Zimbabwe’s sea of poverty occasioned by a collapsing economy.
Candid Comment by Stewart Chabwinja
Mahachi’s jaw-dropping demands, which have elicited despairing shakes of people’s heads, provide an insight into the entitlement mindset of the country’s upper class that will stop at nothing, including official plunder, to maintain lavish lifestyles which belie country’s economic crisis.
Top on the list of astounding demands of the town clerk, reportedly on a salary in excess of US$27 000, include US$100 000 salary for every year of eight served, a spanking new Jeep Cherokee and a Belvedere mansion estimated at a whopping US$1,5 million.
How this wish-list can be remotely justified is extremely baffling, at a time the city council has unsuccessfully tried to dismiss 3 000 workers without benefits as it is struggling to pay salaries, let alone deliver basic services. In fact the local authority has become synonymous with uncollected garbage, potholed roads, dry taps and mushrooming unplanned settlements, among a host of symbolic failures.
It is instructive of Mahachi’s designs of a sumptuous life post-Harare city days that in July this year he was sent on forced leave for, among other allegations, sitting on council directives to rationalise hefty salaries for executives in line with a government directive.
But if it’s any consolation to Mahachi, in trying to normalise the abnormal, he is in good company. The likes of Happison Muchechetere (ZBC) and Cuthbert Dube (Psmas), to mention a few, continued to draw huge salaries at a time their entities were in financial dire straits and workers’ salaries sporadic.
Many Harare residents will not-so-fondly recall Sekesai Makwavarara, chairperson of a profoundly unpopular, if not illegal, commission that ran Harare from 2006 and 2008. Her penchant for the finer things in life, at ratepayers’ expense, saw her attract residents’ ire after demanding council buys her mayoral mansion costly curtains and expensive furniture when service was fast deteriorating.
Mid-July, President Robert Mugabe invoked his Presidential Powers to protect Psmas property from attachment by service providers for debts running into tens of millions of dollars while its greedy executives earn extortionist salaries.
This is extremely insensitive to the citizenry, ratepayers and clients enduring hardships associated with poor or non-existent service delivery. It is proof of an ingrained looting mentality. Not that it is entirely surprising given the appetite for self-enrichment among the elite, fed by any means available, including corruption that has become a national cancer.
Entities such as parastatals and local authorities are not profit driven, but should be commercially run so that they deliver service sustainably, which suggests they are in no position to afford hefty salaries and golden handshakes, as demanded by Mahachi.