Chombo has a lot to prove

HARARE - Local authorities, while hamstrung by financial problems, must show cause why residents should stick with them.

For many years, residents have been short-changed by their municipalities despite paying for the services, which are no longer guaranteed.

This is a kick in the teeth to the many impoverished residents whose hard-earned money is largely spent on funding plush lifestyles and hefty salaries of city officials.

Not paying bills or boycotting paying them, is not a good thing to do but they way local authorities have pushed the residents to the edge by refusing to implement a Cabinet directive of 30:70 percent ratio which demands local authorities must spend 30 percent on salaries and the rest on service provision, could result in the total collapse of municipalities.

The Cabinet directive wants salaries capped at $9 000 for the highest earning manager. Local Government minister Ignatius Chombo must play hardball with defiant municipalities who continue to ignore the Cabinet directive.

It does not help anyone to spend 70 percent of the municipalities’ revenue towards funding salaries whose bulk goes into the fat pockets of senior managers while ignoring basic services.

However, what is disconcerting is that Chombo has promised to stamp his foot on the errant municipalities but remains largely ineffective to force the implementation of the Cabinet directive.

In the absence of decisive action, Chombo, no matter how well-meaning he is, runs the risk of not being taken seriously.

There are many cases which put Chombo into the spotlight and one of the most glaring is his reversal of the suspension Harare City Council Town Clerk — Tendai Mahachi — who had been procedurally and temporarily removed from his job to pave way for investigations.

Ironically, Mahachi had been suspended for concealing the salaries that his management team was earning, in a move that was in line with implementing that Cabinet directive for the 30:70 percent ratio.

The minister has been refusing to approve the Harare City Council budget until the city fathers bring into effect the Cabinet directive.

Chombo’s stance can only be meaningful if the councils, including Harare City, comply.

Residents are tired of government rhetoric and need service delivery commensurate with what they are paying to their councils.

No one should blame them for not respecting their government and local authorities because the continuing rapid decline of public infrastructure and collapse of basic services, are not consistent with the expectations of ordinary people.

Chombo has the opportunity to right these wrongs and justify why he should be taken seriously.

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