Volunteer workers fight Harare council

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HARARE – Volunteer workers are up in arms with the Harare City Council (HCC), accusing the local authority of giving them empty job promises.

During a tour of Mbare last week, hundreds of the volunteer community anti-litter monitors complained that council has been lying to them for more than four years.

The monitors, who volunteer to sweep the busy Mbare Musika vegetable market and its surroundings for free, claimed that HCC does not even provide them with protective clothing.

Eustina Gara, 26, said when she first decided to be an anti-litter monitor, it was out of the desire to keep her neighbourhood clean.

“I stay in Tagarika Flats and saw that my surroundings were not fit for human habitation. I joined more than 300 anti-litter monitors on a volunteer basis,” she said.

“When I wanted to leave, council told us that there would be job openings, with volunteers getting first preference,” Gara said, adding that “until now, nothing has happened”.

Another volunteer, Norman Hungwe, 29, said for the past five years, he has been sweeping the market hoping to get a job, but to no avail.

He said the job promises came after three months of volunteer work, with many opting not to leave the country after having their hopes raised by HCC’s promises.

“The sad thing about all this is that we are still young and need these jobs to take care of our families.

“What makes me angry is that they have all my details, yet nothing is happening.

“It is not that we are not learned but there are no jobs and this keeps us from doing drugs and other social ills,” Hungwe said.

He added that while they volunteer daily from morning to evening like paid council employees, the city does not provide them with gloves, safety boots and work-suits.

Hungwe said aid agencies such as Oxfam assisted them with protective gear, while HCC only gave them T-shirts.

“People who are going around giving Aquatabs and Waterguard are getting paid for a half day’s voluntary service but we get nothing. If this continue, we may have to abandon this and look for proper paid work elsewhere,” Hungwe said.

HCC director of works Philip Pfukwa said while they were understaffed, they could not hire because of the politics surrounding recruitment.

“There was a concern that if these volunteers were hired it would be based on political affiliations which the City was afraid of.

“These volunteers are actually doing a huge job which should be handled by council employees.

“In Mbare alone, we need 90 sweepers but there are only 25, and while the city centre requires 280 there are only 150 of them,” he said.

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