MPs call for better pay and conditions for councillors, as service delivery concerns linger


HARARE – Zimbabwean legislators have urged the central government to enhance the conditions of service for councillors, citing their crucial role in service delivery and the insufficiency of their current allowances. The call was made during a National Assembly session at the New Parliament Building in Mt Hampden this week.

Zimbabwe MPs call for better councillors pay and conditions of service
Image: Parliament of Zimbabwe

The motion, tabled by Murewa West lawmaker Farai Jere, highlighted the need for "competitive conditions of service" for councillors, who he referred to as the "real foot soldiers of development" and "unsung heroes". 

He argued that the government's thrust of devolution and decentralisation necessitates competent and motivated leaders at the local governance level. "For devolution to be effective, local governance requires competent and motivated leaders’ compensation," Jere said. 

"The inadequate compensation hinders councils’ ability to full execute their responsibilities. The current allowance for councillors is inadequate and this hinders motivation, accountability and capacity to perform their duties effectively," he added.

Jere pointed out that the current allowance for councillors, recently increased to ZWL$1 358 255 (US$80) per month by Local Government Minister Winston Chitando, is inadequate. 

He proposed that councillors should receive a basic salary in addition to allowances, which should cover expenses incurred during official duties, enable professional development, and account for constituency sizes.

Despite the increase in allowances, other MPs, including Goromonzi West representative Biatah Karimatsenga-Nyamupinga and Mberengwa West MP Tafanana Zhou, echoed Jere's sentiments, describing the US$80 allowance as a "mockery" and insufficient to meet the needs of councillors.

They also raised concerns about the inconsistent application of a policy allowing councillors to purchase residential land at a 40% discount.

Hon Zhou said other councillors end up involved in corrupt activities such as illegally selling stands and unscrupulously acquiring stand in their individual capacity. Other legislators said councillors should be given cars so that they carry out their mandate effectively. 

However, the call for improved conditions comes amid widespread criticism of councillors, who are often blamed for poor service delivery and corrupt activities, particularly illicit land deals. 

Despite such impassioned appeals from legislators to alleviate the plight of local government officials, the stark reality is that many councils are mired in deplorable service delivery, a direct consequence of the rampant, unchecked corruption that plagues both rural and urban municipalities.

Councillors in local government have gained infamy for their involvement in illicit land deals involving substantial sums of money, to the detriment of the public. 

While MPs' pleas might appear to absolve councillors of their self-inflicted wrongdoings, the countless reports of corruption in councils suggest a rampant pursuit of self-enrichment.

In the ongoing power struggle with the central government, councils have increasingly become interest-driven, with the primary goal being the survival of those in charge. 

Urban and rural councils have been accused of manipulating developmental initiatives, all in a bid to secure a lion's share of devolution funds and to impose exorbitant rates upon residents. 

This manipulation, driven by selfish motives, has been catastrophic to service delivery, as the focus shifts from collective welfare to individual gain. 

This corruption has been disastrous for service delivery, as councils have prioritized individual interests over collective needs.

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