SW Radio Africa (London)

30 November 2012

Zimbabwe: Chitungwiza Falls Apart As Municipal Strike Continues

The streets of Chitungwiza high-density suburb are reported to be full of rubbish and flowing sewage as a week of strikes by municipal workers continues.

Eddington Shayanowako, coordinator at the Chitungwiza Community Development Network (CCDN), told SW Radio Africa that there has been no garbage collection all week, council run clinics, beer-halls and banks have also been closed and cemeteries are not allowing burials.

The strike, initiated by desperate workers after three months without salaries, is said to have paralysed the town while the council loses much needed revenue. The workers have vowed not to return to work, ignoring a call by the Labour Minister Paurina Mpariwa to end the strike.

Shayanowako said workers were seen hanging around the head office in Zengeza 2 with no idea what council is planning to do about the unpaid wages. No one has addressed them and the town clerk, who manages council affairs, was reportedly out of his office.

The Chamber Secretary reportedly held a meeting with several councillors on Wednesday, but the workers and residents have not been given any information.

Residents seeking medical treatment are reportedly walking to Chitungwiza Hospital because clinics are closed. Some even travelled as far as Harare for treatment.

Desperate families trying to bury their loved ones were reportedly stranded at Unit L Cemetery, which was closed due to the strike. Some families had to pay kickbacks to workers and find youths to dig the graves.

Shayanowako also said the tower lights used at night had been turned into telecommunications base stations and many areas were now dangerous in the dark.

"I don't think the residents even know who their councillors are and there is no communication between them at all," Shayanowako said.

Residents are concerned that the industrial action will worsen the already ailing service delivery situation.

Chitungwiza raises about $1.4 million in revenue per month, while paying out $1.7 million in wages. This means the Council is falling behind by $300,000 each month without any plan to eliminate this growing deficit.

Shayanowako said the Council is run by mostly MDC-T councillors, as well as several "special interest" councillors that were appointed by the Local government Minister, Ignatius Chombo. It has been alleged that these councillors were put there by Chombo to cause problems for the elected MDC-T.

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