BY EVERSON MUSHAVA
PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa’s embattled government has reportedly resorted to unorthodox means to force its impoverished workers to continue reporting for duty after refusing to pay them United States dollar-benchmarked salaries.
Apex Council spokesperson David Dzatsunga told NewsDay on Monday that government was using coercive tactics, such as work attendance registers, to identify workers who fail to report for duty after the public workers declared incapacitation.
The intimidatory tactics include marking of registers and using councillors who threaten to report absent workers in rural areas, especially teachers.
“Clearly, workers are largely incapacitated, but it is unfortunate that there are reports of intimidation served through the administrative machinery by way of registers. Consequently, workers just find some and any means to report for duty,” Dzatsunga said.
Civil servants declared incapacitation on October 15, a day after they submitted a demand to their employer in a National Joint Negotiating Council meeting that their salaries be pegged in US dollar value and paid at the current interbank rate.
The least paid government worker is earning about $1 023, an amount only enough to buy US$50 on the black market at a time the country is experiencing a grave economic meltdown characterised by skyrocketing inflation, shortages of fuel as well as constant plummeting of the local currency to the US dollar.
This fall in value of the local currency has forced teachers and other public sector workers to introduce a two-day working week.
Last Friday, Finance minister Mthuli Ncube revealed he was unable to meet their US-benchmarked demands, promising another cushioning allowance for workers, before payment of bonuses next month.
Dzatsunga said his organisation would meet today to review the situation and map a way forward in light of the threats.
“We are going … to meet tomorrow (today) as Apex to consider some options,” he said
NewsDay has been informed that some councillors had been moving around rural schools threatening to report teachers who fail to turn up for work.
The Zanu PF councillors have been targeting headmasters, forcing them to mark attendance registers and report absentee teachers to them so that they could report direct to Mnangagwa.
The threats came after the councillors met the President in Harare last week.
“Councillors came from meeting with the President and they claimed they were told to call his office if any teacher is not working,” a teacher who requested anonymity said.
“Headmasters are demanding that anyone who cannot attend work for any reason, including incapacitation, should submit their names. In addition, we are required to dress formally up to 4pm, otherwise the headmasters will submit our names to the councillors, who will report to President Mnangagwa.”
The teachers said they had reported the matter to their unions.
Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe president Takavafira Zhou confirmed receiving the reports, and said he had since advised the teachers to put the complaints in writing for them to act.