THE rare but telling admission by Public Service acting minister Paul Mavima that civil servants cannot afford buying locally made products, hence the justification to provide free shopping trips to South Africa is scandalous and exposes President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s shortcomings.
It unwittingly exposes the emptiness of the regime and that it is at sixes and sevens in trying to deal with the emotive issue of civil servants whose loud calls for better working conditions have fallen on deaf ears.
A stamped memo said to have originated from the Public Service Commission (PSC) noted that the government, alive to the challenges and incapacitation by the civil servants was considering an alternative to have them enjoy shopping trips to South Africa. That is disrespectful to the civil servants as it turns them into cross-border traders who will be subjected to all forms of ridicule, stress and disdain associated with those in the field. Though the PSC claimed the statement was fake after an outpour of anger on social media, it is the thinking of the minister that is worrying and left many not amused.
Mavima claimed the move was meant to motivate the livid civil servants, who have endured threats, violence and criticism from the authorities all for being honest enough to tell the regime that it has failed to address their plight. The admission that civil servants’ salaries are inadequate is one sure act of bravery but it doesn’t count to sincerity on the part of the government. Civil servants are clamouring for a return to the pre-October 2018 salaries that saw them getting at least US$520 a month instead of the measly Zimbabwean dollars ranging from as little as $16 000 in such a hyperinflationary environment.
Mavima said they welcomed every policy that would motivate workers but this is as irritating as it is worrying. The only thing that can motivate the distressed workers now is a salary adjustment that is alive to the realities of a wobbly economy like ours. It confirms that the people have been at the receiving end of poorly executed propaganda by government spin-doctors that there is overwhelming boom in the manufacturing sector and the economy is on a rebound.
We are clearly not ticking the right boxes and this suggestion is clear testimony to that. The idea of even contemplating a trip to South Africa for civil servants just to buy groceries is pathetic especially in a country where civil servants are paid in the worthless local currency and have to source the South African rand from the black market.
The few Zimbabwe dollars the civil servants are getting are not enough to pay rentals, school fees for their children and buy groceries locally and then comes the absurdity of the government to even propose that the incapacitated worker goes for a trip to buy groceries. Will that trip pay for the workers’ rent? Will that trip pay their children’s school fees?
How can Mavima state that the government was paying its civil servants well and that the recent 70% salary review was enough while in the same breath saying local goods are expensive for them? Talk of speaking with a forked tongue. Given the level of corruption in government, it will not come as a surprise that this will only benefit high-ranking officials in the civil service.
Encouraging locals to go out of the country for shopping is nonsensical and a sign of failure by the Zanu PF regime.