ARE CLAIMS BY COUNCILLORS JUSTIFIED?

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By David Kapoma
This is currently a ‘Hot Issue’ in our local politics. Many commentators, civil society and political leaders have made several interesting comments on this matter. I am meant to believe that this has come about because councillors realised that they are the only class of politicians holding public office who are walking away with a pay less than what most maids and garden boys are getting especially those working in ministers homes. It is very important that to argue on this matter, we understand why councillors get what they get.
Let us lock at the background; the idea of having the councillors was and is to have representation at grassroots level. Councillors are the ones who are in touch with the local people while MPs concentrate more on formulation of laws in parliament. Councillors in novelty are not full time employees of the city councils. They only become an employee once they assume the position of deputy mayor and begin earning a salary. In fact out of all elective political positions, councillors are the only ones who are allowed to contest for election while at the same time having a full time job. President, MPs and Mayors are by law requested to resign from formal employment to qualify for adoption. This means that councillors ‘must’ be in some form of employment that give them a stable income while representing the people in their capacity. I am sure this partly explains why councillors only get K 700 monthly allowance and another K 410 seating allowance per month making a total of K 1,110 per month. This is not a salary but an allowance.
But why then are the councillors complaining? Members of parliament according to the information I have get a weekly seating allowance of circa K 10,000 per week in cash. So every Friday the pay master is at parliament building dishing out this money to honourable members. This also means that the MPs don’t get taxed. On top of the K 10,000 per week, MPs get another K 30,000 as monthly allowance putting their monthly income at about K 70,000 without including other allowances they earn for belonging to different committees etc. So councillors get less than two (2) percent of what MPs get per month. Let me be quick to mention however, that some of the figures above may not be too exact but 90% true since no one openly tells us how much they get for fear of victimisation.
So the real question is are the councillors justified in their claims to have their pay increased? To answer this question fairly we must first look at the current councillors we have. Most of them including the daughter to the president have no full time jobs. This is partly because the current political environment makes it grim for someone in full time employment to take part in politics freely and later contest for election. Otherwise most employers including government may not be too reassuring to see their employee contesting for political office and still continue serving in their capacity at a formal job.
The reality is that these councillors have families and still need to among other things support their children in school, feed them and be able to take their lovely spouses out for dinner on a Wednesday or take them for a drink on a Friday like the way MPs will take their loved ones this evening after getting their pay. With K1,110, it becomes impossible for them to do any of the above. This is one of the reasons why most councillors pay themselves through illegal land allocation. This is not to say i support illegal allocation of land but facts must be stated as they are.
With the scenario above it simply means that we may need to realign and balance the equation and give councillors a decent pay just like other politicians are enjoying. It is unfair to continue giving them something that makes them slaves in their own land. They need money to be able to leave a bag of mealie meal at that funeral in their wards. They are the ones who face the people and solve the many challenges their people face. As members of parliament further amend our constitution in parliament, can they also look at the plight of councillors and not only issues that benefit them directly. What about MPs letting go of just a K 5,000 and give it to councillors. ‘Ubuntu must be that easy’.
Can we pay councillors what they deserve!
David Kapoma
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