Employees of the financially distressed Mafube municipality in Free State are facing the prospect of another festive season without pay. This unfortunate situation arises from the Municipal Workers Retirement Fund (MWRF) seizing the municipal accounts to recover outstanding amounts that the municipality has been unable to pay.

The municipality, which falls under the Fezile Dabi district, has been grappling with the issue of non-payment of salaries for a decade now. What was initially dismissed as an innocent delay in salary disbursement has escalated into a severe problem, with employees lamenting about going months without pay. The employees had to endure a three-month period without pay between May and July.

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After a brief respite of four months when they received their salaries, the employees were informed that the municipality has exhausted all avenues to pay them, and they might have to go through December and January without their salaries.

The Impact of Non-Payment of Salaries

Mothusi Lepheana, Mafube’s municipal manager, in a letter to the employees, explained that the current predicament is due to the MWRF approaching the Free State High Court to obtain an order to attach and subsequently garnish the funds in all municipal accounts. He advised the employees to inform all their creditors accordingly and assured them that timely updates would be shared through their union leadership if there are new developments.

Johnson Mbele, chairperson of the South African Municipal Workers Union, expressed his heartbreak over the workers’ plight, especially since not all of them are members of the MWRF. Mbele highlighted that the potential non-payment of salaries has instilled fear among the workers of losing their assets, as some creditors have lost patience with the municipality.

Seeking a Solution

Lepheana is working tirelessly to find a way to slow down the MWRF from demanding to be paid all its money at once. He proposed a payment plan to the MWRF, expressing confidence that if followed, it would eliminate the debt and allow the municipality to continue functioning as before.

Lepheana expressed his concern over the employees not getting paid during this period, understanding that they need the money for their personal expenses. He is making every effort to resolve this issue. He also mentioned that the municipality and the MWRF are organizing a meeting to try and find common ground and ensure the workers receive their salaries.

Themba Mfeka, MWRF principal officer, is adamant about not backing down, noting that it took the fund long enough to take the matter to court. He mentioned that the municipality has made promises and proposed payment plans in the 12 years it has not been paying the retirement fund. He believes this is the only chance to finally recoup the money owed to the fund.

By Shamiso Miracle

Shamiso Miracle completed her degree in journalism and media studies at the University of Zimbabwe before honing her skills at Savanna News. She then went on to work at iHarare News, becoming a voice for everyday SA citizens who wanted to share their stories. When she's not writing news that entertains and inspires ,Shamiso is an avid reader and a wellness bunny.

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