By Sij Ncube
HARARE, November 16, 2015 – PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe’s administration Tuesday failed to honour its pledge to pay soldiers the 13th cheque in a tale-tell sign the government is technically broke due to the prevailing economic climate and low revenue collections by tax authorities.
In February this year Mugabe promised to pay all civil servants their bonuses ahead of the festive season despite advice to the contrary from finance minister Patrick Chinamasa who had said there would no bonuses for the public workers in 2015 and 2016, adding that the government had agreed not to reward the public servants for the next two years, saying the coffers were virtually dry.
Chinamasa revealed that cabinet had further agreed that payment of bonuses being looked into in 2017, saying
But out of the blue Mugabe said it was never agreed by his cabinet, he arbitarily pledged to pay the bonuses for the more than 200 000 civil servants despite clear signs the state does not have cash for its day-to-day operations, including meeting its huge salaries bill for the bloated civil services.
Soldiers were slated to be the first to earn the 13th cheque last week but it emerged when they trudged into their respective banks nothing had been deposited, much to the chagrin of some members of the military. They only got their usual monthly salaries.
Government officials recently revealed the payment of civil servants bonuses would be staggered with the last batch getting the 13th cheque in January 2016 but critics doubt the government has the financial wherewithal to honour Mugabe’s pledge at a time the country’s revenue collection agent Zimra has failed to meet its budget.
Due to recession in Europe, some countries such as Ireland, scraped bonuses in 2009. Ireland only re-instated bonuses last year.
Critics note when People Democratic Party leader, Tendai Biti was minister of finance during the ill-fated government of national unity he was being accused of failing to pay bonuses to civil servants citing lack of funds but however the civil servants got their bonuses on time.
Now Chinamasa is also facing the same problem. Public service minister Prisca Mupfumira Tuesday indicated she was not aware whether the police or the army had not received their bonuses.
Bekithemba Mhlanga, a journalist turned lawyer and economist based in the United Kingdom, says it is a sign all is coming to head now.
“Some things are beyond Mugabe’s “magic wand” and this is one of them. Soldiers may as a collective have strict command structures and lines but on a personal level of this nature they may not toe that line,” said Mhlanga.
Mhlanga said Mugabe overruled Chinamasa hoping the problem (of bonuses) will go away like a bad dream.
“But then he never thinks things through e.g. war veterans payouts, the DRC (Democratic Republic of the Congo) expedition, his disputes with the West and the purging of (former vice president Joice) Mujuru,” he said.
Vivid Gwede, a Harare-based political analyst, said it is not a secret that Mugabe’s government is by and large broke, but also has not cut spending on things that do not matter to create fiscal space for the rewarding of civil servants with the 13th cheque. Gwede said Mugabe’s promise is failing to materialise.
“Although Mugabe has been keen to project everything as under control, the purse holder Chinamasa has insisted that the government is in doldrums. So for now, it is a word of intention by the President being pitted by the word of reality by Chinamasa. This official contradiction simply shows a government, and by extension, a nation in crisis,” he said.
Mhlanga chipped saying the money to fund the 13th cheque is not there.
“There are people who think there is a secret purse from past diamond sales. I don’t believe this for one minute. The money is simply not there and government will eat humble pie and admit so soon. What will happen is some juggling of payments between groups. Those that represent the greatest political threat will get paid more often and those that don’t less often. This will happen until government has managed to annoy all the constituent groups,” he said.
MDC-T spokesperson Obert Gutu did not mince his words, pointing out that the Zanu PF government is bankrupt.
“Everyone knows that unassailable fact. Much as they would like to appease and placate members of the armed forces and all other civil servants by paying them annual bonuses, the long and short of it is that there’s simply no money to pay bonuses, let alone to pay salaries on time every time, said Gutu.
“The Zanu PF regime is certainly living on borrowed time. The national coffers are dry and the much talked about Zim – Asset policy framework has proved to be a monumental flop. The economy is shrinking at an alarming rate and the national treasury simply can’t cope with all the financial demands from the various government departments. This government has hopelessly failed to turn around the comatose economy. With Robert Mugabe at the helm as President; we are only guaranteed of one thing and one thing only, that is, total collapse of the State. This is just a matter of time.”
People’s Democratic Party spokesperson Jacob Mafume said after decades of broken promises from Mugabe, it is a wonder anyone waited until November to see that he is lying. “They have given false promises to Zimbabweans so many times. Mugabe has fooled us since 1980 in which he promised a heaven on earth but he has built a limited edition of hell. Even Satan would have trouble creating a similar type of hell even if he tried. In fact all Satan has to do punish sinners is to send them to Mugabe’s Zimbabwe,” charged Mafume.