Thursday, 20 October 2016

JUDGE OKAYS COUNCIL BOSSES PAY CUTS

A HIGH Court judge has dismissed an application by 12 Bulawayo City Council bosses who were challenging the slashing of their salaries and allowances by the Government, saying the reduction was in the national interest.

The slashing of the salaries and perks follows a Ministerial directive which sought to rationalise the remuneration of top council managers by 40 percent of their total package.

The senior council management under a grouping called “The Executive Group of the Staff” and through its lawyers Calderwood, Bryce Hendrie and Partners, recently filed an urgent chamber application at the Bulawayo High Court citing Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Minister Saviour Kasukuwere and the Bulawayo City Council as the respondents.

The council bosses who went to court are Kimpton Zenzo Ndimande (finance director), Simela Dube (director of engineering services), Spekiwa Mugiya (legal officer), Dictor Khumalo (assistant director of housing and community services), Makhosi Tshalebwa (human resources manager) and Richard Peterson (chief fire officer).

The other bosses include Masocha Mtshena (assistant director of health services), Tennyson Mpunzi (chief internal auditor), Thabani Ncube (city valuer) and Mpazamiso Ndebele (information and technology manager).

Bulawayo Mayor, Mr Martin Moyo, through a letter dated July 13, 2016, instructed the then acting town clerk to implement the council resolution.

The council bosses, through the Executive Group of the Staff chairperson, Mr Mackenzie Widzani Moyo, sought an order interdicting their employer from implementing the resolution for the reduction of allowances payable to them pending the determination and finalisation of a case before the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare.

But Justice Maxwell Takuva, in a ruling delivered yesterday, said the Ministerial directive was in the national interest after a realisation by the Government that local authorities were paying unsustainable salaries and allowances at the expense of basic service delivery.

“I take the view that the balance of convenience does not favour the granting of an interim order. It appears that the Ministerial directive was made in the national interest after a realisation that local authorities were paying unsustainable salaries and allowances at the expense of basic service delivery,” said Justice Takuva.

The judge said service delivery was more important than individual interests.
“What is at stake therefore is effective service delivery to Bulawayo residents in their totality as opposed to the allowances of the executive group which can be compensated through non-monetary benefits. In my view, national interest should prevail over individual interest,” Justice Takuva.

The judge said the Minister predicated the approval of the budget on the rationalisation of salaries.

“It is common cause that currently the Bulawayo City Council budget has not been approved, meaning that in terms of section 47 of Public Finance Management Act, all current expenditure of the city is irregular including the payment of salaries to applicants,” said Justice Takuva.


He said council bosses have alternative satisfactory remedy since they had filed a complaint with the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare.

“In the circumstances, the application is unmerited and is hereby dismissed and each party to bear its own costs,” ruled Justice Takuva.
 

Mr Moyo, who is also the council’s assistant director of housing and community services, in his founding affidavit, argued that there was no legal basis upon which the Ministerial directive was premised.

“It is our contention that while the Minister’s powers in terms of the Urban Councils Act may be wide in terms of him regulating the activities of local authorities they, however, do not allow him to take away rights the local authorities would have lawfully bestowed upon third parties,” he argued.

He further contended that the actions of their employer and the Minister were a violation of their rights in terms of the Labour Act.

“We believe these are rights that may not be taken away from us on the basis of powers of the Minister given to him by the Urban Councils Act.

Clearly if on the basis of any other law someone were to say that they are entitled to take away fundamental rights of employees protected by the Labour Act, there would be a conflict between the Labour Act and any other such law that the person would be seeking to rely upon,” said Mr Moyo. Chronicle

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