PUBLIC Service minister Sekai Nzenza on Thursday told Senate that payment of civil servants’ bonuses this year was uncertain as she was yet to negotiate the issue with Finance minister Mthuli Ncube.
Civil servants traditionally receive bonuses from November, but in the last few years, the gratuities for the 250 000-strong workforce have been staggered to the following year due to a financial squeeze.
The issue was raised by senator Chief Zama Nthua Mkwananzi Ngungumbane, who demanded that Nzenza must clarify the issue of bonuses since the year was coming to an end.
“At this stage, we are reviewing our pension funds and the wage bill, which also includes the bonuses,” Nzenza said.
“Given the current economic turmoil, we would also take that into consideration and if you can bear with me for a while, we will be able to get back to you with the correct information. I am not able to answer your question at this stage. That question can only be answered in consultation with the Minister of Finance and Economic Development and all the other ministers involved.”
In July, just a few days before the elections, the cash-strapped government dangled a 17,5% special civil service allowance with other incentives like cash in-lieu of leave (CIL) for teachers who had accrued more than 123 days’ vacation leave, from reduction and alignment of rentals at institutional accommodation to housing allowances paid to various grades of civil servants.
The civil service wage bill has been chocking government and the economy as it gobbles 91% of the national budget. In 2017, government proposed to cut the wage bill from 91% to 50% by 2019.
Harare Metropolitan senator Elias Mudzuri (MDC Alliance) said government should also accept that civil servants’ salaries were designated to dollars.
“They should continue to earn dollars rather than change their accounts to bond notes or RTGS,” Mudzuri said.
But Nzenza said everything would be determined by Treasury when Ncube returned as he was currently outside the country.
Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe secretary general, Raymond Majongwe said civil servants would not accept anything less from President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government.
“Former President Robert Mugabe used to give us our bonuses. If Mnangagwa claims to be a better leader than Mugabe, then he is supposed to do better. We want our bonuses in US dollars and nothing less. We are not taking a compromise on this,” Majongwe said.
Currently, civil servants earn between $400 and $600 monthly in bond currency, and if this was converted into the Unites States dollar, it will be way below $150 and far below the poverty datum line at $575. The World Bank in 2016 released new poverty datum lines which stated that extreme poverty was living on less than $1,90 per day.
Former Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa once attempted to stop paying civil servants bonuses, but Mugabe reversed the move.
Public Service Commission chairperson, Vincent Hungwe this week told journalists during an induction workshop for permanent secretaries that the government had no choice but to tackle problem areas in Zimbabwe’s civil service.