Masvingo council salary row turns nasty

MUTARE - Service delivery has all but collapsed in Masvingo where council workers owed money continue attaching property.

The messenger of court, acting for the workers, has attached more vehicles and other movable property over the $3,5 million salary row.

This follows the dismissal of a council urgent application by the High Court to stop the auctioning of other property attached last year.

The city fathers had late last year approached the High Court to block the sale of its property after workers won the salary dispute at the Labour Court.

The Daily News crew witnessed last Friday as workmen towed away council vehicles belonging to directors.

The cars, which included a Mazda Eagle twin cab, a mayoral Mercedes Benz and Isuzu pick-up trucks, as well as other movable property, were stored at the messenger of court yard.

They add to refuse and fire trucks, ambulances and other service vehicles attached by the messenger of court late last year over the same dispute.

The council, dominated by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC party, says the move has crippled operations.

“They have virtually attached everything, including the vehicles and even empty beer bottles from our bars in the high density suburbs,” said Mayor Femias Chakabuda.

The beer empties are the least of residents’ concerns.

Residents are living in fear of disease outbreaks after many went through the festive season without running water. Refuse is piling because council no longer has trucks for the service.

Council owes workers $3,5 million arising from a salary increment dispute dating back to 2008 and the council does not seem to be in a hurry to pay.

Chakabuda said the messenger of court does not have the legal basis to auction the cars as council is still approaching higher courts.

“This is unnecessary pressure they are putting on us so that we can panic and negotiate with them. But our case is still with the courts and they can auction if they want but we have the law on our side. Our urgent chamber application was thrown out, but our appeal is still there at the High Court,” he said.

Restive workers are pressing the messenger of court to put the properties under the hammer to pay their dues.

The crisis facing the country’s oldest town has attracted the attention of MDC leader Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, who recently summoned Chakabuda to a meeting demanding action to resolve the dispute amicably.

Tsvangirai, a former trade union leader, read the riot act and ordered Chakabuda to find means to pay workers owed by the council. - Godfrey Mtimba

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