GOVERNMENT has reneged on its bonus pledge this month and reportedly advised civil servants’ union leaders that it was financially hamstrung and could not commit itself to mobilise money for the 13th cheque anytime soon.
Public Service minister Prisca Mupfumira and Apex Council member Sifiso Ndlovu confirmed the development yesterday.
Mupfumira told NewsDay that she could not give a definite date for the payment of bonuses, saying the situation had been worsened by the fact that Cabinet was on recess, with its chairman, President Robert Mugabe, away on holiday in the Far East.
“We don’t have a date yet. When we get a date, we will advise and, as you know, Cabinet is on recess and we might only meet maybe next week, that is when we will discuss some of those issues. The commitment to pay is there, but as to when we will pay, if I state a date, I will be lying,” Mupfumira said.
“As for the February 10 meeting, it is just a meeting, but it has nothing to do with bonuses. We are committed to pay, so we will wait for Cabinet and I will get a clear view from there.”
Ndlovu, also chief executive officer of the Zimbabwe Teachers’ Association, said indications on the ground were that civil servants would not get their bonuses anytime soon.
“From the interactions that we have had with government, we have been told by the Public Service minister that she is still engaging her Finance counterpart, Patrick Chinamasa, on the bonus issue and she will be able to tell us the pay date on February 10, when we meet her,” he said.
“So it means the hope that civil servants would get their bonuses early is close to nil, we will wait for February 10.
“The commitment to pay is there, but as to when we will get the money, we will only know after February 10. We know that the government is committed to paying us, but as to when, it’s the headache for the employer to tell us.”
While Ndlovu was looking forward to the February 10 meeting, Mupfumira had already watered down expectations from that gathering.
Progressive Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe president Takavafira Zhou was also not very optimistic on the bonus issue.
“It’s very worrying that this government is treating us as servants without rights,” Zhou said.
“After being told that this is the position, we resolved to embark on a go-slow as a way to send a message to our employer. We have since realised that it (government) is now intimidating the workers. They have recalled all those on leave and there are unilateral transfers.”
For the first time since Independence, public workers went for the festive holidays without their December salaries and were yet to receive last year’s bonuses, despite the government’s assurances that the payment would be made this month.
Last year, Chinamasa announced the government had suspended paying bonuses as it could not afford, but was forced to beat a hasty retreat after a public reprimand by Mugabe.