BULAWAYO residents yesterday criticised the government’s decision to suspend payment of annual bonuses for civil servants for two years saying this would demoralise underpaid workers.
BY PRIVILEGE SHOKO
Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa announced there would be no bonuses this year and 2016 because the government was trying to reduce spending so as to revive the comatose economy.
He said the decision would be reviewed in the 2017 national budget.
However, residents who spoke to Southern Eye said Chinamasa’s announcement was ill-timed.
“The 13th cheque was meant to show appreciation for work done by civil servants and this move would cause chaos,” Kelebetsi Ndlovu of Emganwini said.
“The government should try to revise this move. President Robert Mugabe must address this issue since the government is the largest employer.”
Ndlovu said non-payment of bonuses to civil servants would not affect government workers alone since many businesses were likely to suffer.
“Shops usually experience better business in December after civil servants have been paid bonuses and this means that there would be no business to talk about in the next two years,” he said.
Cynthia Mthethwa, a nurse, said bonuses presented civil servants with the only chance to do something meaningful from their pay and scrapping the 13th cheque would leave most of them in a difficult position.
“We have just been recently employed after many years without employment,” she said. “We thought that through bonuses we could purchase fixed assets since there is no increment on our salaries.” A retired civil servant, Jabulani Mpofu, said the suspension of bonuses could be unlawful.
“This is not in the Constitution that there should be cancellation of bonuses,” he said.
“Through bonuses workers were able to meet demands on them as the government does not increase salaries.”
Zimbabwe Teachers’ Association chief executive officer Sifiso Ndlovu said Chinamasa’s announcement came as a surprise to teachers since they were were not consulted.
“They did not have the courtesy of informing us or even engaging us as civil servants and this shows arrogance,” he said.
“These are the same people responsible for the mess we are going through.”
Ndlovu warned that non-payment of bonuses would affect morale of civil servants.
“This is the third time we are going to fight for bonuses because we fought for them in 1981 and in 1995 when the government unilaterally suspended bonuses,” he said.
“The suspension will actually affect ZimAsset goals, which they want to achieve because non-payment bonuses will have a negative bearing on the morale and the performances of the civil servants.”
The MDC led by Welshman Ncube said if the government was serious about residing expenditure, President Robert Mugabe would have cut down on foreign trips instead of targeting already vulnerable civil servants.
“Chinamasa’s announcement of scrapping of civil servants bonuses for the next two years is shocking and a clear sign that the regime has completely run out of ideas on how to turn around the economy,” MDC spokesperson Josh Mhambi said.
“The announcement is shameful to say the least because civil servants are already underpaid and denying them bonuses is an insult and a sign of insensitivity on the part of the Zanu PF government.
“It must be remembered that these are the same people that have continued to give a semblance of functionality in the civil service of this failed State.”
Zimbabwe has an estimated 500 000 civil servants, but it is believed that a number of people on its payroll are ghost workers. An audit is underway to establish the number of civil servants in the country.