The civil servants’ bonus issue has come full circle and for the first time it is revealing how the government runs this country: on an ad hoc basis with little regard for policy and pragmatism.
Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa made it abundantly clear that the country had no money to pay public workers their bonuses, but all economic expertise, knowhow and common sense were sacrificed on the altar of populism.
President Robert Mugabe declared that civil servants’ bonuses were sacrosanct and would be paid, yet all economic sense showed Zimbabwe could not afford to make such payments.
Now government workers have every right to demand their 13th cheque, but the State literally has no money and this is vindicating Chinamasa and had his counsel been taken, all this brouhaha over bonuses would have long died.
On the face of it, civil servants will not get their bonuses anytime soon and this is likely to increase tensions between them and their employer over something that could have been avoided.
The civil servants’ bonus issue is strikingly similar to how Zimbabwe found itself in so much debt to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank.
When it was expedient to pay, Mugabe pronounced that the “IMF can go to hell”. Years later, after so much interest had accrued, Zimbabwe wants to start paying back the money.
In all honesty, if the country did not have this sense of bravado 20 years ago and continued paying off its debt, we would not be in the position we are in, where we owe much more than we can pay.
Similarly, if Chinamasa’s views had been taken on board last year and the government explained its financial position and how it affected bonuses, then we would not be in this position.
As leaders, the government should be able to explain the painful decision and what it hopes to achieve rather than making promises about tomorrow in the vain belief that tomorrow will never come.
As Mugabe said, bonuses are a right and civil servants have every reason to demand them.
As alluded to earlier, the government has promised to pay the IMF and World Bank all the arrears by April this year, meaning more money will leave this economy, which is already desperately in need of a cash boost.
The World Economic Forum has already warned that the country may fail to meet some of its obligations, meaning paying bonuses might even become more impossible.
Instead of hiding behind the finger and coming up with crass populist sentiments, we urge the government, particularly Public Service minister Prisca Mupfumira, to be forthright and explain the financial handicaps the country faces.
The responsible thing to do is stick to honesty rather than keep shifting goalposts as this only serves to agitate workers.