* Large salaries for bosses of struggling state firms
* Government investigates pay and perks
* State firms paying for maids, fuel and holidays
By MacDonald Dzirutwe
HARARE, Jan 30 It's not just Wall Street or
London's Square Mile where "fat cat" salaries trigger banner
headlines and howls of outrage from activists and lawmakers.
In cash-strapped and deeply impoverished Zimbabwe,
newspapers have kept their readers riveted for weeks with
revelations about managers of state-owned firms pocketing
millions of dollars in pay while the economy stagnates.
Some analysts suggest the government may be letting the
stories run to distract the public from the parlous state of the
But the revelations have also tapped into genuine concern in
the ruling party about the money soaked up by perennially
loss-making state companies.
Amid a rising chorus of public anger, President Robert
Mugabe's government this week pressured a health insurer that
covers government employees to oust chief executive Cuthbert
Dube earned a monthly base salary of $230,000, Finance
Minister Patrick Chinamasa told parliament - more than 600 times
the $370 average for a government worker.
Documents seen by Reuters showed Dube's Premier Service
Medical Society had debts of $38 million but 14 managers were
paid nearly half the firm's $33 million salary bill last year.
Dube declined to comment.
In a rare moment of political unity, Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF
and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change are calling
for the worst offenders to be dismissed and arrested for abusing
public funds at the parastatals, as they are known.
"An exercise has started through the office of the President
and Cabinet to investigate the remuneration given to all
parastatals," Chinamasa told MPs this week.
At the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC), the nation's
only broadcaster and a loyal Mugabe mouthpiece, chief executive
Happison Muchechetere was suspended by the government in
December after workers went seven months without pay.
Before his removal, Muchechetere was receiving $40,000 a
month in pay and perks, while other executives drew hefty weekly
allowances and had most of their bills paid by the ZBC,
according to interim results of a government investigation.
Information Minister Jonathan Moyo labelled some of the
payments "disguised theft" at a press conference this week.
A copy of Muchechetere's contract printed in the state-owned
Herald newspaper on Wednesday fuelled the growing outrage.
It showed ZBC paid for his fuel, local holidays and four
house-maids. The company also gave him an unlimited
entertainment allowance and a housing stipend even after it had
paid off his mortgage, according to the paper.
Muchechetere could not be reached for comment. He told a
privately-owned radio station after his suspension last month
that he was "not bothered" by the accusations.
Harare mayor Bernard Manyenyeni suspended the capital's town
clerk on Thursday after a council salary schedule leaked to the
local press showed he was on a base monthly salary of $37,000.
"The government would rather see this go on for a while
because for a moment it takes the focus off the economy which is
in all sorts of problems," Harare-based economist, John
Robertson, told Reuters.
Meanwhile, most city workers have not received their
December wages, while the capital's 1.2 million residents endure
a daily grind of burst sewers, water shortages, power cuts and
(Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe; Editing by Ed Cropley and