13 April 2014

Zimbabwe: Salary Cap for Overpaid Chefs a Lie

Confusion is reigning supreme over the government's directive to slash salaries of parastatal heads and local authority bosses amid revelations that the order has either not been officially communicated or has been ignored altogether.

Government, through Cabinet last month ordered the slashing of the salaries to a maximum of US$6 000 a month with Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa warning of unspecified action against those who ignored the directive.

The directive followed revelations that parastatals bosses such as suspended Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) CEO, Happison Muchechetere, were earning as much as US$45 000 per month while their organisations struggled to remain afloat.

But several local authorities and parastatal officials last week professed ignorance of the directive which they said they had only heard in the media. They said their institutions would continue paying hefty salaries to executives.

There were fears too that government could have been politically posturing when it announced the directive.

Bulawayo Mayor Martin Moyo said there was no formal directive from the government to cut the salaries.

"There is no directive from the ministry and what we have heard are rumblings in the press and whether the press heard it right or wrong we are not sure. We would accept a formal communication from the government to say that this is what we are doing," said Moyo in Bulawayo last week at a meeting organised by a local civic organisation.

He said once the directive comes they would deliberate and respond to it accordingly.

"When we receive it, as city council we will look at it and respond the way we think. My view is that when we give small salaries to the town clerk, they will pack and go. The figures that we see in the press, we don't know what they are based on," said the Bulawayo mayor.

He said the US$9 000 salary that the Bulawayo town clerk was getting was not obscene.

"The figures that we announced are down to earth and things that are happening elsewhere are not happening here. The US$9 000 that the town clerk is getting is not really a lot of money and we are talking here of a highly skilled person," said the mayor.

Mutare Mayor Tatenda Nhamarare also said he had not received any formal communication concerning the directive.

"We have not yet received anything regarding that issue from the ministry. We just read about it in the media and no communication was done to us," said Nhamarare.

Harare City Council Town Clerk Tendai Mahachi declined to comment saying he was attending a workshop.

But senior officials at Town House confirmed that salaries for the high earning executives and other employees would remain unchanged.

"The salary schedule for April is already being prepared and nothing has changed," he said. "There is a view that government was posturing when it announced the directive."

The official said no statutory instrument has been put in place to enforce the directive.

A ZESA official said while the Energy and Power Development permanent secretary, Partson Mbiriri early this month wrote to several parastatals in the ministry ordering them to effect the directive, this had now been reversed.

"No changes are going to take place because it was realised that the directive has no legal force and that other parastatals were doing nothing about the issue," he said.

But Information, Media and Broadcasting Services permanent secretary George Charamba said there was a procedure to follow in terms of how communication occurs in government.

"It's now up to the ministries to communicate the directive to their parastatals; that's how communication works in government. So the ministries have a lot of work on their hands now," he said.

"With respect to our ministry (Media, Information and Broadcasting Services) we communicated the position and received feedback on the difficulties that chief executives were encountering in implementing that directive, so cabinet instructed that we collect all the feedback before action is taken," said Charamba.

Renowned lawyer Rodgers Matsikidze said the directive was likely to result in an avalanche of litigation as it was more of a policy pronouncement.

"It is an unfair labour practice. Salaries are the product of negotiation and agreement. The only circumstance under which salaries can be cut is if such a salary was being earned fraudulently," said Matsikidze.

He said the best recourse would be for government to approach the courts and argue for the case that a particular institution does not have the capacity to pay such a salary.

"There is no need to suddenly rush and implement the directive. There would be need to put that policy into a legal framework and look at the relevant laws before implementation," he said.

He pointed out that salaries were negotiated through the National Employment Council (NEC) and registered in terms of section 74 of the Labour Act.

NEC graded salaries pass through the labour ministry as fair and reasonable.

Then there are salaries that are based on negotiations with the board and executives wherein they are agreed as reasonable.

Chinamasa who heads a ministerial committee handling the issue of remuneration for parastatals bosses was not available for comment as he was said to be in Washington.

Ministries must communicate the directive: Charamba

Information, Media and Broadcasting Services permanent secretary George Charamba said there was a procedure to follow in terms of how communication occurs in government.

"It's now up to the ministries to communicate the [salary cut] directive to their parastatals; that's how communication works in government. So the ministries have a lot of work on their hands now," he said.

"With respect to our ministry (Media, Information and Broadcasting Services) we communicated the position and received feedback on the difficulties that chief executives were encountering in implementing that directive, so cabinet instructed that we collect all the feedback before action is taken," said Charamba.

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