SOFIA Machadu (not real name) is a bitter woman.
Report by Phillip Chidavaenzi
Following her retrenchment from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) towards the end of 2009, she has had to endure the shame of a life downgrade.
Machadu — together with other central bank retrenchees — have been fighting to have the RBZ release their outstanding severance packages running into several thousands of dollars.
A mother of three, who is also looking after her elderly parents, Machadu nearly breaks down as she speaks of the agony she has gone through as her former employer shifted goalposts with regard to the outstanding payments.
“The court system is not working,” she says in a thinly veiled attack of the country’s justice delivery system to which she and her colleagues had turned to for respite.
But with their frail powers in a world where money often pulls the levers of power, they have not been able to take on the behemoth that is the central bank.
Machadu worked for the bank for three decades in which she saw four governors — Desmond Crough, Kombo Moyana, Leonard Tsumba and Gideon Gono—hold the reins.
As her finances dried up and with her former employer playing hide-and-seek over her package, she was forced to relocate to Hatfield, a much cheaper residential area.
“I had to sell my house in Eastlea. Now I am living in Hatfield. My mother is not well, too,” she says on the verge of tears.
It is heart-breaking, she says, that the bank’s board members, who are paid thousands in sitting allowances, have thrown their weight behind Gono who has indicated the bank was struggling to pay them because the central bank coffers are near-empty.
“We are in a difficult situation,” she says. “We are no longer on medical aid on the one hand and on the other, we have no money.”
Machadu says she did not have hard feelings concerning her lay off as it had paved way for new blood, but she just wanted her dues to invest in an income-generating project.
“I have three children and one of them is at Eaglesvale. But with our situation now, I don’t think we can keep him at that school,” she says.
“But the problem now is that we can’t get a transfer letter because there are outstanding fees.”
Her mother, she says, is a chronic diabetic patient and she is responsible for her treatment.
Another ex-employee of the bank, who preferred anonymity, says it has become a struggle to settle utility and medical bills.
Two of his children, who are twins, are doing O-Levels and he can no longer pay their fees.
Since they are in an examination class, he is not able to transfer them to a cheaper school.
He has to pay $2070 fees per term for each one. Another child, who is still in primary school, needs $732 a term.
“Our outstanding packages have been coming in batches of
$1 000. But how do you distribute that money to cover all your financial obligations?”
“But if you are given all your money, you can do a lot with it,” he said. The circumstances reflect the hardships rentrenched RBZ employees are going though.
Arthur Chipato, the vice-chairperson of the 2012 retrenchees, said according to the payment plan they agreed with the bank’s management, they were supposed to get $5 000 by January 31, 2011, which they were paid, and the outstanding balance would have been paid by March 2011.
Chipato says the 1 546 retrenchees have suffered so much that one of them committed suicide.
Gono at the weekend told journalists that: “The plight of former workers is a sad one, but the bank is powerless as it does not have resources to pay.
“Those who remained have not been paid to the period up to the time that former workers left.”