Irate chiefs demand better wages

MORE than 350 headmen aligned to the African Traditional Leaders Association in the Mopani district are outraged at the provincial government's "empty promises".

The headmen, mainly from the former Lebowa and Gazankulu Bantustans, said Limpopo Premier Cassel Mathale had made a commitment that government would make sure that their monthly wages were increased from the present R1080 to R2500 and that it would be backdated to 2004.

This followed allegations that headmen in the former Venda homeland were earning more than their counterparts in the former Lebowa and Gazankulu homelands.

They said it was now eight months since the promise but that nothing seemed to be going well. They accused Mathale's office of keeping silent about the matter.

The headmen said they wanted Mathale to act on demands they had discussed with him during a meeting in Tzaneen last year or else they will pass a motion of no confidence in him.

The chairperson of the traditional leaders association in the province, Harry Mabunda, said the issue was disturbing, especially considering the equal responsibilities of the headmen, irrespective of their language, culture or origin.

Mabunda said the present government had ignored the backlog of payments of headmen for more than 16 years.

They were supposed to have integrated the programmes of the headmen shortly after the democratic government took over, as they had done with the other three Bantustan governments.

Mabunda said the angry headmen wanted the fringe benefits enjoyed by the chiefs since their responsibilities and those of their superiors were almost similar.

He said most headmen and their children were struggling to make ends meetand that if the government did not intervene the situation might worsen.

Limpopo government spokesman Mogale Nchabeleng could not be reached for comment at the time of going to press.