A ROW has erupted in the Hwange Rural District Council after councillors got bitter over the exploitation of sand and quarry for the construction of the Victoria Falls Airport with no money being paid to it, amid reports that the local authority was failing to pay its staff due to financial constraints.
The tug of war started after the staff confronted management over the non-payment of salaries, leading to councillors making noise over the exploitation of resources in the district without any revenue being generated and the issue of the Victoria Falls Airport reportedly took centre stage.
Reports are that trucks loads of pit sand and quarry were being conveyed from Sidobe Ward in Victoria Falls to build the 4km runaway presided over by the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (CAAZ), but the community and the council, which has jurisdiction over the area, were getting nothing out of it.
The situation has been made worse by council not authorising the contractor to dig the area amid reports that the “looting” was authorised from a higher office in Harare without any council resolutions approving the exploitation of the area.
The council uses the area as its cash cow to get pit sand, which is sold for construction in the resort town.
However, with the airport project, the council’s source of income dried up and was left to scrounge for financial resources to run council business including paying salaries.
Efforts to get a comment from CAAZ chief executive officer David Chawota were fruitless as his mobile phone went unanswered.
However, Hwange deputy council chairperson Mathew Muleya yesterday confirmed the development.
“The problem started when the council failed to pay workers,” he said.
“We then sat with the staff and we looked into areas which give us revenue.
“That is when the staff advised us that the airport project was exploiting resources in our area of jurisdiction, but council was not getting any revenue from that.”
Muleya said despite the airport being a national programme, the council and the community should benefit from the exploitation of resources in their area.
“To make matters worse, as councillors, we are not even familiar with the project as we are being sidelined, but the project is under our jurisdiction,” he said.
“When we engaged the chief executive officer (Phindile Ncube), he just said it was an order from above, but that’s not enough as the council needs money to pay its workers,” he said.
The construction and expansion of the Victoria Falls International Airport started last year and was earmarked to be completed ahead of the hosting of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation generally assembly which was co-hosted by Zimbabwe and Zambia.
However, the project failed to meet the deadline and continued throughout this year.