SW Radio Africa (London)

6 June 2014

Zimbabwe: Workers Beat Up Chitungwiza Mayor Over Unpaid Wages

Barely a week after Apostolic worshippers beat the police in Harare, the extent of public anger with authorities was revealed Thursday when angry workers assaulted the Mayor of Chitungwiza over unpaid wages.

Reports said 50 irate workers barged into a meeting at the Zengeza council offices where two of them assaulted Mayor Phillip Mutoti as he was discussing the issue of salaries with an administrator. Mutoti said the two assaulted him as he tried to calm them down and it took the municipal police to restrain them. Describing the experience as his 'worst ever', Mutoti said had the police not intervened his assailants would have 'left' him 'for the dead'.

The cash-strapped Chitungwiza Municipality has not paid its workers for more than 10 months. Recently Mutoti revealed that the council needed as much as $2m a month to finance its wage bill and the local authority was collecting less than half of that in revenue.

The local authority's case is not isolated, as most municipalities countrywide are struggling with their wage bills due to a decline in revenue. The situation was worsened by a government directive which ordered all the local authorities to cancel residents' debts ahead of elections last year. Municipalities have said since that directive residents have not been paying their charges.

But corruption has also been blamed for the Chitungwiza council's woes. Two months ago council workers told Parliament of a scam involving a secret account from which 18 council managers were withdrawing $235,000 a month. The council subsequently fired those workers, accusing them of violating its code of conduct.

Community leaders told SW Radio Africa that tension has been bubbling under the surface for too long and the beating of the mayor was bound to happen. Chitungwiza Residents Trust spokesperson Marvelous Khumalo condemned the beating of the mayor but said the incident indicated that the situation at the council has 'gotten out of hand.' He urged the government to chip in and 'correct the anomaly.'

Khumalo's comments come after public impatience with the ZANU PF government is already stretched to dangerous levels. Addressing local clerics in Rome on Monday Pope Francis said Zimbabweans 'have reached their human limit, and do not know where to turn', a situation which the ZANU PF government seems to be oblivious to.

As the Pope was saying this Budiriro worshippers who beat up the police as they tried to close down their Church were being hauled to court amid heavy riot police presence. It also emerged that at the African Union the ZANU PF government was pushing for the criminalization of popular uprisings, such as occurred in North Africa, during which many oppressive regimes have been swept away.

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