THE confusion surrounding the government’s decision to suspend civil servants’ bonuses deepened yesterday with a Cabinet minister blasting Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa for breaching protocol and rushing to announce the decision before consulting the Public Service Commission (PSC) and Labour minister Priscah Mupfumira in accordance with a Cabinet directive issued on April 7.
BY STAFF REPORTERS
This came as the Rural Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe made a scathing attack on President Robert Mugabe accusing him of “politicking over the issue” after the veteran leader on Saturday said his government would not dare suspend bonus payments even though some civil servants are yet to receive their 2014 bonuses.
RTUZ president Obert Masaraure said Mugabe’s remarks during Zimbabwe’s 35th Independence Anniversary celebrations on Saturday could have been mere rhetoric meant to pacify an increasingly restive 230 000-strong civil service.
“Other unions and individuals would claim that the centre has fallen and there is no more co-ordination and unity of purpose in government,” he said.
“Our union, however, believes that there is a co-ordinated approach to make us suffer. Mugabe is an accomplice to the suspension of bonuses. He might have been playing politics when he made the wild proclamation or have forgotten what they agreed on in Cabinet, which is a natural symptom of old age.”
Masaraure said policies should be announced through formal channels after sincere consultations, something that had not been done with regard to bonuses.
Conflicting statements by Mugabe and Chinamasa concerning civil servants’ bonuses has left the government employees in confusion as they are no longer sure of the correct government position regarding the matter.
Some civil servants are yet to be paid their 13th cheques from 2014 after Mupfumira admitted that the government revenue streams had dwindled, presenting government with challenges in paying salaries.
Mugabe, however, dismissed media reports on the well-publicised Press conference addressed by Chinamasa, who was flanked by Information minister Jonathan Moyo and Presidential spokesperson George Charamba, where the Finance minister announced that the government was suspending the payment of bonuses for the next two years.
“I want to make it clear that the report which was in the newspapers that bonuses were being withdrawn is not government policy,” Mugabe said on Saturday.
“The Cabinet did not approve that at all and the Presidency never was consulted on the matter. We were never consulted the three of us — that is myself and the two Vice-Presidents — and we say that is disgusting to us and it will never be implemented at all.”
He said it was not the government’s practice to strip benefits it would have bestowed on its employees.
Chinamasa, who is currently attending an International Monetary Fund meeting in the United States of America, announced that the failing economy had prompted government to scrap the bonuses. The minister could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Cabinet sources, however, told NewsDay that Chinamasa jumped the gun when he announced the suspension of bonuses without following procedures spelt out by Cabinet.
It is understood that the issue was tabled before Cabinet just before Mugabe left for South Africa on a three-day State visit early this month and Chinamasa was tasked to engage Mupfumira, the PSC and civil servants’ unions.
“Cde Chinamasa jumped the gun over the issue because he was supposed to consult the Public Service Commission over the issue and allow the minister (of Public Service) to do the announcement after reporting back to Cabinet,” said the source.
“Secondly, the Presidency was alerted to a court ruling made in the early 1990s over the same matter where the High Court ruled that it’s impossible to scrap bonuses for civil servants because they would be part of their entitlement.”
The policy on civil service bonuses was introduced for the first time in the then Rhodesia in 1974, and since then civil servants have always received their 13th cheques regardless of the state of the economy.