AN ordinary civil servant, working in the country’s outback, who masters the courage to stand up and speak truth to power must be roundly applauded, given that it has become taboo and dangerous for citizens to simply air their grievances.
Government and private sector workers are currently wallowing in abject poverty, while at the same time they are not being allowed to demand better remuneration and decent working conditions by a government that seems to have run out of ideas on how to steer troubled Zimbabwe out of a debilitating economic quagmire that has seen every worker declaring incapacitation.
Currently, the government has slammed the brakes on the money printing press, ostensibly to slow down inflation. This has meant that workers’ salaries have remained stagnant — while they are actually depreciating in real terms —at a time the very inflation that government seeks to control is running riot.
And so it must have come as a big surprise to the powers-that-be when an unassuming rural teacher from Beitbridge’s outback knelt in front of Vice-President Kembo Mohadi and pleaded thus: “I have a request Vice-President Mohadi; I am going to kneel down to drive home this important message to you. We are suffering and life has become hard and can you please put word for us so we can have a salary raise.”
This has been the very same message that the teacher’s unions have been delivering to government to no avail. Some of the union leaders have instead been hounded, abducted, tortured and threatened with death for merely demanding better salaries, given the misery they are being forced to endure, owing to the poor salaries that were long-mauled to rags by inflation now unofficially said to be over 500%.
We just hope this innocent and genuinely suffering and hapless Beitbridge teacher will not be victimised for highlighting to Mohadi and the powers-that-be what they already know.
While government recently offered a 97% salary hike for all civil servants, the Beitbridge teacher’s passionate plea simply points to the fact that the government offer is paltry.
Civil servants have been asking government to peg their previous US dollar salaries at the prevailing interbank rate in order for their wages to keep up with the galloping prices of basic goods and services.
But government has refused, yet its fees for services are pegged using the interbank rate, which has effectively exposed government’s hypocrisy and double standards.
It is, therefore, high time government honestly revisited the issue of civil servants’ pay cheques, with the view to ease tension between it and its workers.
Government’s continued insistence on providing a cushioning allowance will not serve the situation, we are afraid to say.