The festive season has become a ginormous nightmare for the majority of civil servants as President Robert Mugabe’s stone-broke administration is failing to pay them not just their promised end-of-year bonuses, but their December salaries as well.
Under-pressure Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa, had the unenviable task of announcing on Christmas Day, of all days, that most public servants would only receive their December pay — which was supposed to have been deposited into their accounts before the onset of the holidays — in January.
To make the situation worse desperate State pensioners have been queuing at banks around the country for their money in vain for the past few weeks.
In that light, there are growing fears that violent demonstrations could erupt early next year as hard-pressed civil servants and pensioners, who include war veterans, agitate for their money.
Economic analysts who spoke to the Daily News on Sunday yesterday warned that the cash crunch ravaging the government was likely to worsen in 2016 as the country’s comatose economy
deteriorate, resulting in ever dwindling revenues for the Treasury.
They also bemoaned Mugabe’s “folly” earlier this year when he ill-advisedly quashed plans by Chinamasa to suspend civil servants’ bonuses for two years, given the State’s plummeting revenues.
According to the Finance minister, the current civil service wage bill, which chews more than 80 percent of government’s revenues, stands at a staggering $260 million. Bonus obligations for civil servants in 2014 stood at $172,6 million — a large part of which was only paid mid this year.
Pensioners who spoke to the Daily News on Sunday yesterday said they felt betrayed by the government as they were having to spend the festive season with no money.
A retired police force member said his pension was all that stood between his family and starvation as he had no other means to look after himself and his loved ones.
“I can no longer compete with the young people for work. All I do is wait for my meagre pension, which I fully earned and is not charity from the government.
“They should therefore not tell us that the money is not available or that it was used at the Zanu PF conference because this trend of late payments has been going on since May, and is getting worse,” he said.
Teachers who make up the bulk of the civil service have also savaged the delay by the government to pay their salaries and promised bonuses, and are threatening to take drastic action to have their money released.
The Rural Teachers Union in Zimbabwe (RTUZ) said yesterday that if the Zanu PF government could afford “endless foreign trips for the president, Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko’s hotel bill and a week-long party conference in Victoria Falls, there should be enough money for salaries”.
It also said the ever-changing pay dates for civil servants underlined the “cruelty of government towards its own employees”.
It further threatened to take its protest against government’s inadequacies to the streets on January 4, saying its members would only return to work once their demands had been met in full.
“Chinamasa’s zeal to impress international creditors at the expense of civil servants will drag his party into a legitimacy crisis. A government that lies to its citizens deserves no recognition at all and must be pushed out of government.
“We call upon the working class of this country to join hands and confront the anti-workers ruling party and demand salaries and bonuses for civil servants,” the union said.
“Retrenchments and other anti-worker policies that we have witnessed this year are a clear message on the need of solidarity among the working people.
“As a union, we stand ready to fight for our dues and fight against those who deny us our dues. Zanu PF must either deliver or ship out of government,” the union added.
In its own statement, the Zimbabwe Teachers Association (Zimta) said it would not be held responsible for any riotous action its members may take.
It said come January, teachers could resort to mass demonstrations as the inability by the government to pay their 13th cheque was a clear violation of Mugabe’s directive to pay bonuses.
In previous interviews with the Daily News on Sunday’s sister paper, the Daily News, Zimta president Richard Gundani also slammed the re-deduction by the government of student teachers’ allowances, saying they could end up pocketing less than $50 when this was implemented.
“Furthermore educators are dejected that for the first time in many years, they shall spend the Christmas holiday without receiving salaries … they are also demoralised by the employer’s processes and promises made without any defined time frames. The workers’ rights have been infringed upon” he said.