9 July 2014

Zimbabwe: Chitungwiza Collapses, Army to the Rescue

Photo: The Herald
Zimbabwe National Army Parade

The Zimbabwe National Army has been called in to help manage critical departments at Chitungwiza Town Council as the strike by workers persists. Town Clerk Mr George Makunde said patients were stranded after nursing staff downed tools in protest over non-payment of salaries.

Council owes its employees in excess of US$11 million, with most workers going unpaid for periods between eight and 10 months.

The strike entered its third day yesterday. Garbage has not been collected and sewer bursts are all over the town with no plumbers to attend to the problem.

Mr Makunde said he had a meeting with the army leadership seeking reinforcement in the most critical departments of the municipality.

"We have approached the army to get assistance in the fields of clinics, refuse removal, sewerage and others.

"We requested 20 nurses, eight truck drivers and 46 ordinary soldiers for refuse collection, four plumbers and two mechanics to take care of the fleet," said Mr Makunde.

He said a group of 300 youths have also volunteered to assist council.

"We have also organised extra personnel outside the army to man the sewer treatment plant, graveyards and other areas."

"These are well-wishers who pledged to assist us during this difficult period and we appreciate their good gesture," said Mr Makunde.

A survey conducted yesterday showed that there was chaos at cemeteries with bereaved families facing challenges to bury their relatives as the staff joined the strike.

Patients failed to access drugs with expecting mothers facing challenges to get services at distant health institutions.

Mr Makunde described the situation as a total collapse of service delivery.

"We are facing a serious crisis, the impact of the strike is too heavy and it is too huge.

"The situation on the ground shows a total collapse of service delivery and it calls for an urgent intervention by other stakeholders," he said.

Meanwhile, the municipality, through its lawyer Mr Rodgers Matsikidze of Matsikidze and Mucheche law firm, has filed an application to the Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Services to have the strike declared illegal.

The parties appeared before a labour officer who recommended the suspension of the strike pending the minister's determination of the application.

However, the workers vowed to continue with the strike. In the application, council cited the Zimbabwe Urban Councils Workers Union as a respondent.

Council contends that the job action was illegal and that it must be stopped.

The municipality also seeks permission to take disciplinary action against the workers who took part in the strike while also seeking green light to dismiss all workers who attempt to sabotage or disrupt council operations.

Chitungwiza has a total debt of US$35 million of which US$11 million is meant for salaries.

It owes the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority, Harare City Council (water supplies), National Social Security Authority, and many others to the tune of US$24 million.

Mr Makunde said council was owed US$27 million by ratepayers and other debtors. He also stressed that workers in health department, fire brigade, sewer maintenance and other essential services were not allowed at law to go on strike and they must be punished.

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