30 November 2012

Zimbabwe: Council Strike Paralyses Service Delivery

A STRIKE by municipal workers in Chitungwiza since Monday has paralysed service delivery in the town. The are protesting over the non-payment of salaries as they have gone for three months without pay.

All the council clinics are now closed, cemetery offices have been locked up, while bars and banking halls were shut, depriving council of revenue.

Water faults were not being attended to while sewage was flowing all over the streets.

The workers, who were gathered at the council headoffice, yesterday vowed not to return to work despite a call by Labour and Social Welfare Minister Paurina Mpariwa to end the strike pending an inquiry into the justification of the industrial action.

Minister Mpariwa on Wednesday issued a show cause order directing the workers to appear before the Labour Court today.

"You are hereby directed to appear before the Labour Court on November 30 2012 at 10am to show cause why the collective job action initiated by you on November 26 2012 should not be disposed of in terms of Section 107 of the Act," she said.

"Pending determination of this matter, I further direct that the collective job action be terminated immediately and in any case within 24 hours of the service of this order.

"If you fail to show cause at time and place notified, you shall be guilty of an offence and liable to a fine not exceeding level 14 or to imprisonment not exceeding five years or to both such fine and imprisonment."

But the workers remained defiant and hired nyau dancers entertained them outside council offices.

Most patients were trooping to Chitungwiza General Hospital, the only Government institution in the town.

Some had to travel to Harare for treatment.

Banking halls were deserted, making it difficult for residents to pay their dues.

The situation was worse at Unit L Cemetery where bereaved families were stranded with corpses.

The cemetery office was deserted and people had to pay kickbacks to some workers to bury their loved ones.

A woman who intended to bury a relative narrated her ordeal to The Herald.

"We were supposed to bury our relative yesterday, but we could not do so because there was no one at the cemetery office.

"We learnt that council workers were on strike. Someone then directed our youths to a bar where one of the workers drinks and we paid him.

"No receipt was issued and that is how we found our way here to bury our relative."

Bereaved families also had to pay some youths to dig the graves.

"Mukoma mazheti aya. Mukasabhadhara hamuvigi hama yenyu nekuti kanzuru iri pastrike (This is a corrupt game. If you do not pay me I will not dig the grave and you will be stranded with the corpse)," said one of the men.

Sewage was flowing all over and people had to negotiate their way through most parts of Chitungwiza.

Garbage was dumped on the entrance to the town clerk's office.

The town clerk Mr George Makunde said the strike had crippled service delivery and reduced revenue inflow.

"The strike has worsened the already badly strained situation in Chitungwiza," he said.

"Clinics, bars and cemeteries, rental offices and other offices are closed. Since Monday, council has not even received a single cent."

Mr Makunde said ratepayers had nowhere to pay their rentals and water bills.

"At least if the workers return to work we will be able to raise some money for payment of their salaries," said Mr Makunde.

He accused the workers' representatives, the Zimbabwe Urban and Rural Councils Workers' Union, of failing to properly advise their membership on the effect of the show cause order by the ministry.

Secretary-general for the Zimbabwe Urban and Rural Councils' Workers' Union Mr Bernard Danda said the workers would not return to work until they get their money.

"The said order does not compel the workers to go back to work. A show cause order does not go that far," he said.

"It simply invites the parties to a hearing for justification of the strike. It does not stop the industrial action."

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