By Sij Ncube
HARARE, December 17, 2015 – President Robert Mugabe’s administration has literally stolen Christmas from pensioners amid revelations the government has no cash for pensions and promised bonuses for all servants less than two weeks to Xmas.
Reports have been awash this week pensioners have been spending sleepless nights in banking queues in desperate attempts to withdraw their monthly pay-outs some as little as $60.
The failure to pay the pensioners, and to a larger extent civil servants bonuses, is largely blamed on a severe liquidity crunch as the administration is technically broke.
While pensioners have been singing the blues for the past few months, the situation is different with public servants whose leaders accuse Mugabe of failing to deliver on his promise.
Mid this year Mugabe promised to pay the civil servants the 13th cheque despite indications by finance minister Patrick Chinamasa that the Zanu PF administration had no financial wherewithal to make the payments.
But less than a week to Christmas Day, pensioners and civil servants are singing the blues. Critics note that it is painful for senior citizens some who have to travel several kilometres to withdraw the meagre pay-outs.
Maxwell Saungweme, a development expert, says it is a tragedy pensioners and the generality of the civil service are staring a bleak Christmas due to the failings of Mugabe’s Zanu PF administration.
“We have a government that cares less for the people. Any descent country would care for its elderly, the pensioners who gave their all for their nation. Civil servants are patriotic Zimbabweans who should be paid their dues first before we talk of chef’s foreign trips and Zanu PF congress. We have skewed priorities,” said Saungweme.
David Coltart, a former cabinet minister, lawyer and opposition politicians, believes Zanu PF’s calculation in not paying pensioners is that they are old, dispensable and unlikely to rise up and protest.
“Only an utterly callous government would hold a lavish conference in Victoria Falls and yet not pay its pensioners their due. Zimbabweans deserve a better government than the chaotic Zanu PF sham,” said Colart.
Jacob Mafume, the spokesperson for the Democratic People’s Party, weighed in, saying his party has maintained that Mugabe only cares for his wife and family.
“They used state resources to meet in Victoria Falls and obviously wiped put the pensions. They want to donate clothes to the elderly at rallies after denying them their dues. The money is going to buying donations for the first lady. It is not only callous but criminal robbing people who have worked for years,” said Mafume.
Bhekithemba Mhlanga, a political analyst based in the United Kingdom, however feels while the pensioners and civil servants are being short-changed, they are not publicly voicing their discontent because they are aware the government is broke .
“Secondly they know that their actions will not make a difference. Thirdly, most of them stopped relying on the government long back just like all other Zimbabweans. Lastly they could well be afraid but most likely they just cannot be bothered,” said Mhlanga.