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Civil servants’ agony

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Life for 29-year-old Harare teacher Rumbidzai Dzepasi (not her real name) is not easy, as her financial obligations chew deep into her salary.
Although Dzepasi, a mother, earns $431 a month, all the earnings are virtually swept away leaving her with no disposable income.

“Out of the $431 that I earn, I pay $100 for my housing stand that I acquired through the Zimbabwe Teachers’ Association, $40 goes towards housing co-operative that I am also a member of,” she said.

“My net salary after all the deductions comes to $240, but I have rentals ($150) and I also need to buy groceries for my family.”

Added to that, she has to buy groceries amounting to $100 and pay the maid $50. Dzepasi is left with a gap that she has to plug as her total monthly bills are over $500.

Her husband is an informal trader who repairs mobile phones and installs solar panels.
He has no consistent income, which makes the family’s financial situation more precarious.
So what keeps her going?

Given that she often finds herself under the bottom line, Dzapasi has been forced to engage in other small income-generating projects such as selling home-cooked meals and ice cream at a local school.

Other teachers at the school are cross-border traders.

The incentives they get from parents, pegged at $50, are placed in a pool fund from which members are loaned money that they repay with interest.

“We are given $50 as incentives every month and we put the money into a pool fund and we lend the money to people at 10%,” she said.

“We then share the profits at the end of the year. But what is sustaining most of us as civil servants is cross-border trading.”

Dzepasi’s lifestyle reflects the agony that confronts more than 60% of people employed in the formal sector whose salaries are way below the $567 poverty-datum line and cannot sustain them throughout the month.

Teaching extra lessons has also become a vital stream for extra income for her.

“I do extra lessons for $5 per month and usually teach 15 pupils. This means I get an extra $75 or $60 per month,” Dzepasi added.

In his Mid-Term Fiscal Policy Finance minister Tendai Biti said the government was not in a position to increase civil servants’ salaries as its coffers were empty.

The civil servants’ wage bill consumes more than 70% of the Budget.

Zimbabwe adopted the multicurrency system in 2009 and civil servants were being paid a $100 “allowance”, but their salaries have since been dollarised with the highest earners getting an average salary of $550 per month.

The recent consumer basket for the month of July indicates that a family of six that includes a mother and father requires $556,47 per month to survive.

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