Health ministry’s ‘political’ reward system demotivating employees

WITH elections beckoning in a few weeks’ time, politicians from across the political spectrum have come up with all manner of promises to lure voters. Even long-abandoned projects have been ‘resurrected’ in a bid to woo voters. The government, on its part, has been trying its level best to present a picture of a level-headed administration. However, its failure to address the insanity in the pay system of employees within the Health and Child Care ministry might easily prove to be a dent on its progress.

By Learnmore Zuze

The government’s fallout with health workers some two months ago spoke volumes about the reward management system currently being followed at the ministry. The government doesn’t seem to appreciate the need to put every civil servant on a fairly equal remuneration pedestal. It finds normality in a system where some are crying while others have things in abundance.

The goings on in the Health ministry are just but one example of an extremely demotivating pay strategy. It’s unclear whether there is a hand of politics in all the mess but one thing is sure: the government needs to revisit its reward management system in the health sector.

Ordinarily and according to Armstrong (2003,) Reward Management is concerned with the formulation and implementation of strategies and policies that aim to reward people fairly, equitably and consistently in accordance with their value to the organisation.

It deals with the design, implementation and maintenance of reward practices that are geared to the improvement of organisational, team and individual performance. Its overall intention is to motivate and retain individuals and improve organisational performance.

However, the reward management strategy in the Health ministry does not, in the slightest, seek to address any of the above. It is for this reason that a normal person would think there is political expediency at play. The pay system is structured in such a manner that instead of encouraging team work amongst workers in the ministry, it has fostered a spirit of mistrust among grades. An example would be the recently awarded allowances where rural nurses and some in the ministry received windfall amounts while others within the same ministry did not benefit. What further alienates workers is that the criterion used to heftily pay the some health personnel was not explained. This naturally leaves other workers within the ministry disgruntled; there is a palpable sense of lack of equity and general unfairness.

It is not enough for a reward system to have fairness and equity but there should be perceived fairness and equity. The employer should make some effort to ensure that the workers understand why some grades were left out. It makes logical sense to conclude that in its quest to boost its election campaign the government is employing tactics that infringe on proper remuneration system of people within the same ministry. In general the government cannot objectively claim to be handling its civil service with the required impartiality.

One of the characteristics of a good reward management system should be that it is easily understood by everyone in the ministry but, as it stands, everything is in shambles. The governing party Zanu PF might actually be undoing its re-election bid. Salaries and allowances have constantly been changing (up and down) without any explanation to the extent that the majority of employees in the ministry are not really aware of what they earn in any given month.

With the awarding of such allowances, the grading system in the ministry is now distorted. Some lower grade employees are now earning more than their supervisors thereby demotivating those superiors. Most of the workers in the ministry fall at the now level of Maslow’s Need Hierarchy (physiological). They are motivated by money (not titles and offices), and now that they earn less than their juniors they now wish to be downgraded to junior grades to enable them to earn more. The general feeling amongst those excluded is that, it is punishment to be either promoted or to be a professional in this ministry.

In an effort to bring normalcy in the reward management system in the ministry, the Health Service Board (HSB) which is the employer of all Health Workers in Zimbabwe had come out with a rationalisation of salaries proposal which was done in consultation with the Finance ministry (Treasury). The process, if implemented would have corrected the many anomalies in the Health ministry. The rationalisation process was supposed to have been implemented with effect from April 2018, but in an apparent show that politics is at play, only a few grades benefitted from it.


The government must move urgently to sanitise the pay system at the Health ministry, otherwise this has serious election repercussions.

Learnmore Zuze is a law officer and writes in his own capacity. E-mail lastawa77@gmail.com

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