Reports the wobbly inclusive government will pay thousands of its employees bonuses – in the form of a 13th cheque –this month is sweet music to civil servants, whose paltry salaries are below the poverty datum line hovering around $500.
One hopes that the principals’ to the shaky coalition – President Robert Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara’s — rare agreement on bonuses is not meant to shore up their respective political parties’ support bases ahead of elections sometime next year.
It is not clear whether those in charge of the diamonds revenue – the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation and Mines minister Obert Mpofu –will this time channel it to Treasury. One wonders whether the promise to pay the bonuses will be fulfilled.
The reason being diamonds revenue has in the past created tension in the government of national unity with allegations from Finance minister Tendai Biti that revenue from the gems was not going to Treasury, while Mpofu and President Mugabe insisted Treasury was receiving the money.
The President at one time accused Biti of refusing to hike civil servants’ salaries although he was receiving revenue from diamonds, but again the minister maintained his stance.
This year’s bonus is perhaps one of the most generous payouts to civil servants, thanks to the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme, which last week gave Zimbabwe the green light to sell its diamonds after intense lobbying during a meeting in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and ending two years of dispute that had divided the organisation. Mpofu believes diamonds could generate $2 billion annually, which money would help transform the country’s economy.
For this, civil servants will be rewarded.
Under normal circumstances, a bonus is payable when there is exceptionally good economic growth, and the quantum varies depending on individual performance.
However, according to the Premier, the GPA principals agreed government had an obligation to pay the bonuses. The fact that Zimbabwe expects $300 million from diamond sales this month points to a good economic outlook for the country.
Although Tsvangirai claims the government has an obligation to pay the bonuses, one hopes political tussling between the main political parties over who will manage diamonds revenue won’t create even more tension in government to the detriment of the generality of civilil servants. It is not enough for Tsvangirai to intimate that the government has a responsibility to pay bonuses, when it is not clear where the money is coming from and how it will be managed. Where will the money come from suppose the diamonds money fails to materialise?
Tsvangirai does not say anything about this eventuality, and how they as principals propose to deal with the unforeseen occurrence in the next few weeks. If this issue is not properly handled, it can cause unnecessary anxiety in the civil service with explosive consequences for the country.
Once it becomes clear, the government will definitely pay its workers bonuses, private sector companies could also be compelled to take a cue from the public sector. It is normal that private sector employees expect companies to give out a little more.