Home » General » Confessions of a City Council Worker [blog]

The city council of Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare, has not been making positive headlines for a long time. Waza blogger Daphne Jena met a council worker who gave her some insight into why this is so.

One day I was taking pictures of some newspaper headlines, and a man took interest in activity. He asked me about what I do, and I told him.

I didn’t ask the same of him, I subconsciously declared the conversation concluded and walked away.

Little did I know that he had mistaken me for a priest and wanted to make a confession?

I was surprised when the man caught up with me and asked where I work. After my reply he voluntarily told me he works for the city council. The conversation got interesting from this point.

The council

As we walked along Speke Avenue in Harare, he pointed at Town House and said, “I work here”.

Town House is the building where the main offices of the Harare City council are found.

Just when I thought the conversation was ending because he was rushing to work and he had arrived, he only decided to start his confession.

“I work for the shit council”, he continued.

Shocked I looked at him thinking, “How dare you decide to swear at me in the first few minute of a conversation.” Clearly I had never heard that term before.

“Is it not what you call us?”, he asked, showing surprise at my ignorance.

“We know that’s what you call us because we do not deliver, we are very popular , but for the wrong reasons”, he continued.

“Anyway how can I deliver if I am not getting paid, personally I do not care what happens anymore.”

And suddenly my interest in this conversation grew . At this point I was even willing to become a woman of the cloth.

Ratepayers

“Why are you not being paid, are people not paying their rates?” I asked.

“No! People are paying, when you look at all these buildings, see them as rent and rates.” he said.

He pointed at the tall buildings in the city centre saying that the council collects enough money for their whole wage bill in just a week.

The million dollar question he went on to answer was: where the money is going?

A simple answer he gave was ‘the government’. This did not make sense to me.

Why and how? Is the council not supposed to fund its own operations?

My guest here was very generous with answers.

Government interference

“Government is broke and we are helping finance towards its wage bill, he revealed.

Still this did not make sense to me because council accounts would tell if money was missing. Instead of being satisfied with this answer, I had more questions- and he had them.

Government is broke

He said, “The money goes to government on the ministers’ orders, and the treasurer cannot question that, if he does his dismissal will be tomorrow’s headline.”

He went on to explain that the treasurer would be popular with the workers if he refused to give the government any money but his family would go hungry. He then asked me a rhetorical question.

Army salaries

“How do you think the army gets paid? They are not a revenue generating department it is council that pays them now that government is broke.”

At this point it all made sense to me, but I was in shock. I could not believe that anyone would bend all the laws of governance just to fulfil a promise which also adds to their political aantage at the expense of other people’s reputations and welfare.

He then told me that he had last been paid in 2014 and was currently waiting for his January salary.

Denial of rights can be a vicious cycle

Whether or not the information given to me was accurate or not, this conversation was just a confession of how he feels as a council worker. And this could have been how his workmates feel as well if they have the same information and are having similar workplace challenges.

The most important part of this conversation was that he made it clear that he did not feel obliged to deliver because he was not getting paid and he was also content with name calling.

He had adopted and embraced the name ‘shit council’. He feels he deserves it because he does not deliver since he is not getting paid.

This gave me an understanding of one simple fact. When you take away from someone, they will also take something away from others in turn. This creates a vicious cycle in society, a cycle that will be difficult to eliminate.

If what this man shared was correct and accurate, then the government took away the right of control of funds from the City Treasurer. The treasurer in turn snatched the right to salaries from his workers. This man here is part of the workers, so he and his workmates have also denied residents the right to proper service delivery.

At this point the resident seems to be at the end of the chain, but can they ensure the chain goes back to where it came from?

Residents could also abandon the payment of rates, thus denying the council the right to payment even for the little service provided. This time the resident will deny the council worker the right to a salary, until it becomes the chicken or egg scenario.

Waza is proud to feature as part of its content local bloggers who have a knack for expressing their unique perspectives, independent thoughts and engaging stories. The opinions expressed here are those of the author.

Be sure to check out Waza blogger Jera’s a href=”https:wazaonline.comenfreedom-of-expressionin-memory-of-the-life-we-once-had” target=”_blank”reflectionsa on the life he misses in Zimbabwe, and be sure to check out a href=”https:wazaonline.comenfreedom-of-expressionwhy-we-are-in-trouble” target=”_blank”Daphnea’s other writing on Waza.

Source : Waza

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