Vusumuzi Dube, Municipal Reporter
BULAWAYO City Council senior officials have demanded that they be awarded additional hefty retirement perks which include having their children’s fees paid at schools and universities outside the country.
The move comes at the backdrop of reports that a number of the local authority’s junior staff, chief among them nurses, will soon be getting salary cuts as the local authority implements its staff rationalisation, restructuring and job evaluation exercise.
The Government also recently ordered local authorities to stop paying exit packages to executives and other employees leaving council service following outrageous severance demands and golden handshakes given to departing council executives.
Golden handshakes are contractual clauses mostly used to attract high quality top executives who may be reluctant to move from other companies. The package mostly includes cash, equity and locally it may also involve vehicles used by the executives.
In the latest development it has emerged that the local authority’s “executive group” tabled their demands during a council in-committee meeting that was held after the full council meeting last Wednesday.
The executive group comprises of the city’s Town Clerk; Mr Christopher Dube, Chamber Secretary Mrs Sikhangele Zhou, Finance Director Mr Kimpton Ndimande, Engineering Services Director, Engineer Simela Dube and Human Resources Manager Mr Makhosi Tshalebwa who, according to the council’s restructuring scheme will be elevated to directorship position.
Council sources revealed that Mr Dube who is on leave attended the meeting specifically to push the agenda, which was presented on a separate sheet, which the officials immediately confiscated after councillors refused to endorse, amid fears that it would leak to the media and eventually the Government.
Bulawayo Mayor Councillor Martin Moyo confirmed the developments but added that councillors shot down the demands considering the local authority’s financial standing and the need to set their priorities straight.
“Yes, the executive group made such an application but councillors advised them that the timing was not right as council is not in a financial position to back their proposal. It was felt that they would rather apply on an individual basis upon retirement instead of having this issue as a set policy as it will get us at loggerheads with both residents and the Government,” said Clr Moyo.
The sources revealed that the meeting was almost cut short as councillors and management were on each other’s throats when councillors adamantly refused to endorse the motion.
“The executive group demanded a commercial and residential stand each and that we increase the number of children who benefit from school fees payment from one to three and that council be in a position to pay for these children even at foreign schools or universities. We knew something was amiss when we saw the Town Clerk attending the meeting when we all knew he was on leave.
“They tried justifying the issue but we felt that they were being insincere. On one hand they complain that council has no money but they then come making all these demands. What raises a stench is that we recently approved a loan facility for them to get top of the range vehicles, now they come making these unjustified demands,” said the source.
This is not the first time the issue of exit packages for the executive group has come under the spotlight. A couple of years ago the Local Government Board thwarted a move by the local authority to award its former employees hefty exit packages that included free commercial or residential stands and 15-month gross salary.
Just early this year the “executive group” was also under the spotlight after they managed to have their previous vehicle loan balances reduced and cut off with the senior officials utilising their leave days to pay off the balances. They also got new top-of-the-range vehicles as part of their conditions of service.
The local authority was also involved in another sad situation where individuals who were approaching retirement would allegedly hoard leave days so as to cash in on them by using them as repayment for extravagant vehicle loans when they eventually retire.
Council has in the past faced a number of financial problems and at one point the local authority almost went bankrupt after 90 percent revenue collected went to workers’ salaries with just 10 percent being directed to service delivery which was against the Government stipulated ratio of 70 percent service delivery to 30 percent salaries.