A crumb called bonus


A loud thud was heard on Independence Day on April 18 dwarfed in decibels only by the loud cheers and ululating that welcomed it. It was a crumb falling from the high table; an Independence Day present from the Commander-in-Chief, Head of State, President of the Republic & company Robert Mugabe to his struggling Civil Servants.

“Never, never,” was a directive issued from the Presidium to halt the payment of bonuses for civil servants. For earlier on, his Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa most probably under the toxic neo-liberal influence of the government’s advisers and lords of austerity: the World Bank and IMF, had announced amongst other austerity measures the cutting down of civil servants’ bonuses. Seems he had taken austerity a step too far for the Presidium.

It seems strange though that the Presidium would baulk at this one measure of austerity when the whole government has been busy imposing numerous other austerity measures whilst concurrently failing to meet its already watered-down public service delivery commitments.

This makes us the kind of society which leaves close to 3 000 women to die during childbirth primarily because government only budgets to spend $22 to meet each Zimbabwean’s health needs. As if that’s not enough, we have also become the kind of cruel society that detains new mothers on hospital floors for failing to pay maternity fees in public hospitals.

Strictly speaking, it wasn’t really up to the President to give or to take the bonuses since these are a contractually binding obligation upon the government as an employer. But then this is Zimbabwe; receiving salaries at all or on time are major achievements in themselves. That notwithstanding, the announcement was by all means and intents heralded by the government’s propaganda machinery as a gracious act of benevolence. However, the truth of the matter is that this government has been taking from workers and civil servants way more than it has bothered to give back. civil servants as with all other workers are now worse off than at any other point in post-independence history.

Conversely, the benefits that have accrued to political elites by virtue of occupying governmental office are in stark contrast to the extinction of a former middle class that was predominantly occupied by educated civil servants. Nowadays it’s not odd to see the teacher’s child chased from school for lack of school fees or the nurse’s child refused treatment for lack of medical aid.
Perhaps this crumb called bonuses is meant to make the political elites feel better about themselves. But then if the idea is to improve the painful lot of civil servants then nothing short of the destruction of the high table and the redistribution of the choice offerings exclusively reserved for political elites and their cronies will suffice.

Care to share profits from the bank Obert (Mpofu Transport minister)? How about some chicken money for the people Gideon (Gono ex-Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe)? Or perhaps some dairy profits from the first family? After all sharing is caring. But more importantly sharing the wealth is indispensable to our nation’s survival. The obscene gap between the majority poor and the minority rich is at once the greatest danger to the country’s future. It is unsustainable and destabilising.

It undermines the potential contributions of millions of Zimbabweans to our shared future by locking them in a perpetual cycle of poverty. It further rubbishes our constitutional ambitions to secure the rights of all by channelling the resources meant for all into the hands of the few.

The contradictions surrounding the whole matter are frustrating. Earlier in his Independence Day speech the Commander in Chief, Head of State, President of the Republic & co had indicated government’s intention to cut down the public service. You can decide for yourself what’s worse retrenchments or cuts in bonuses. Still there is no disputing the fact that for those who will remain in the civil service, the bonus is a welcome windfall and will no doubt go a long way in meeting the needs of hundreds of thousands of dependants who rely on overstretched civil servants salaries. To those who will have already been retrenched by December and the millions who are currently unemployed it matter little whether or not government decides to pay bonuses to the lucky civil servants still in employment.

The State has been shrinking for a long time now. Consistently and in many cases cruelly, the State has been implementing savage cuts to public service delivery in a manner that further impoverishes the poor. Unlike the structural adjustment programmes of the 1990s, this has been a much quieter and more devastating storm. Through the removal of subsidies, privatisation and imposition of service charges the government has basically left the poor to their own devices and forced them to subsidise the State by providing alternatives to failed public services.

In areas such as housing, new slummified settlements such as Hopley in Waterfalls, Harare epitomise the subsidisation of government by the poor, where the poor having left government behind have taken it upon themselves to provide a basic need albeit at a much lower standard and at the expense of other pressing needs. Students at Midlands State University squashed in rented quarters eight per room in Senga Township are another example of the fate of the poor after the drastic cuts to state subsidies for higher education.

The vastly overstretched social welfare provisions for the elderly, disabled and other vulnerable groups that run out in the first quarter are yet another example. So too, are the millions of workers earning a living in the informal sector without basic protection, recognition or even toilets. There are numerous other examples that put this crumb called bonus into perspective. Whichever way you look at it, this crumb called bonus is too little to make up for all that has been taken from the poor and transferred into the pockets of the politically connected rich.

lFambai Ngirande writes what he likes


  1. Its called psycology..being given what you have always been given and u feel like somethin new has been added..kkk

  2. Fambai Ngirande writes what he likes, fuck that.DO YOU UNDERSTAND ?you are saying mugabe made a wrong move in reversing the bonus boob. Mugabe is righ.. over worked civil servants are fully entitled to the contentious 13th cheque. say what ever you like but mugabe is very right . tell Tsvangirai to pay his workers not firing them on trumped up charges in an attempt to evade paying dues ..nxaaa

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