PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe has reportedly given Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa and his Public Service counterpart, Prisca Mupfumira, until tomorrow to provide a date for the payment of civil servants’ 2015 bonuses.
The civil servants were supposed to get their 13th cheque between last December and early this month, but up to now, there is no indication as to when they will be paid, as Treasury battles with empty coffers.
Mupfumira told NewsDay that Mugabe ordered her, at a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, to issue a communiqué on the bonus issue by tomorrow after meeting Chinamasa.
“I am going to meet Minister Chinamasa before Friday (tomorrow) and we will then issue a communiqué on the matter, which is of concern to the President and Cabinet,” she said.
“We are going to discuss the way forward and issue a statement detailing how the matter will be handled.
“As you are aware, the desire to pay is there and we are committed to that. What we have now to agree on is when and this is the meeting we will have with Chinamasa, who is responsible for the country’s Treasury.”
For the first time since Independence, most government workers went for the festive holidays without their December salaries and are yet to get their 2015 bonuses, despite government’s assurances the money would be available in the first month of 2016.
Mupfumira had, earlier this month, said she would meet with the civil servants’ umbrella representative body, Apex Council, on February 10, where the government workers hoped the bonus issue would be thrashed out.
Despite failure by the government to pay workers their promised bonuses, Mugabe and his two deputies, Emmerson Mnangagwa and Phelekezela Mphoko, along with many other senior ministers, blew thousands of dollars in holidays in places such as Dubai and the Far East.
The failure to pay bonuses has caused anxiety among civil servants, with trade unions threatening to go on strike to force the government to pay.
Rural Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe (RTUZ) on Tuesday announced it was giving government up to February 15 to resolve the issue of bonuses, failure of which, its members would “flood” the streets in protest.
RTUZ alleged that government was mooting non-payment of teachers’ salaries during school holidays, something they said would further worsen their plight.
“Thus, as a union, we have given the regime up to February 15, 2016, to sort their mess and pay bonuses to all government workers, cease forthwith the 7,5% pension deduction until salaries are above the poverty datum line and stop implementation of all austerity-related policy positions,” RTUZ said in a statement.
“If these demands are not met by February 15, 2016, we will mobilise our members and fellow workers in the civil service to flood the streets of Bulawayo and Harare on February 26, 2016, and completely shut down the key operations of this government.”
Other unions have alleged that the on-going factional fights in Zanu PF were the source of government’s failure to revive the economy and be able to pay them their 2015 bonuses.
Progressive Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe president Takavafira Zhou said Zanu PF infighting was taking its toll on civil servants, who had now failed to get bonuses due to sabotage by rival factions in the ruling party.
He said his members were ready to take industrial action to fight for their rights, which he said were at risk of being violated.
“Civil servants are a nut between crackers. The struggle for power within Zanu PF is taking a toll on us,” Zhou said.
“I don’t believe that government has no money to pay its workers bonuses, but feuding Zanu PF factions are holding on to cash to build a war chest in the post-President Robert Mugabe era.
“There is sabotage within Zanu PF. Factions are competing to anger civil servants, particularly teachers. Unfortunately, the situation has been made worse for the government workers because they are now polarised along Zanu PF factional and political party lines.”