Felex Share Senior Reporter—
Members of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces received their 2015 bonuses yesterday as Government honours its pledge to pay civil servants their bonuses, despite the obtaining cash flow challenges.It was a case of “smiling all the way to the bank” as members of the defence forces, comprising the Zimbabwe National Army and the Air Force of Zimbabwe, withdrew their bonuses which they had awaited since November last year.
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Some banks in Harare had queues spilling outside their banking halls, as ZDF members withdrew the bonuses, together with their February salaries. Next on the payment schedule will be the Zimbabwe Republic Police, Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services and those in the health sector who will get their bonuses next month, while those in Education will be paid in April.
The rest of the civil service and grant-aided institutions will be paid in May. Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Minister Prisca Mupfumira yesterday confirmed that Government had started paying the bonuses.
“As Government, we honour our commitments and we are much concerned about the welfare of the workers,” she said. Zimbabwe Teachers Association chief executive Mr Sifiso Ndlovu applauded Government for sticking to its promise. “Government has shown commitment to respect the civil servants’ right to a bonus,” he said.
“Finally, the operational commitment has been put into practice and the workers can now remain focused on service delivery.” College Lecturers Association of Zimbabwe president Mr David Dzatsunga said: “We appreciate that finally the employer has walked the talk on bonuses and hope that the same honesty will permeate all facets of Government.
“We also hope to see the same with non-monetary incentives which will cushion us from the low salaries we are getting.” Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe secretary general Mr Raymond Majongwe added: “President Mugabe has lived to his word and we await the same on other promises made to better our conditions of service. We still hope as the Apex Council to meet him and discuss some of the serious challenges we are facing.”
Due to tight fiscal space, Finance and Economic Development Minister Patrick Chinamasa had early last year contemplated suspending payment of bonuses for 2015 and 2016 to create space for funding Zim-Asset projects.
The move irked civil servants and President Mugabe overturned it, saying: “When Government bestows a benefit on civil servants, that benefit cannot be withdrawn because it has become a right.” The payment of bonuses is being staggered as Government’s tight fiscal space does not allow a once-off payment.
Delays in the payment of 2015 bonuses saw some civil servants threatening to strike, not before their representatives met Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Governor Dr John Mangudya who took them through what Government had in its coffers at that time. This satisfied the representatives who subsequently ruled out the industrial action.
At least 83 percent of Government revenue is servicing salaries and Government has come up with a number of strategies to reduce the wage bill. Government is rationalising the civil service following an audit carried out last year by the Public Service Commission. Meanwhile, civil servants have elected Mrs Cecelia Alexander of the Public Service Association as the new Apex chairperson, replacing Zimta president Mr Richard Gundane, whose one year tenure ended last month.
Mrs Alexander will be deputised by Mr Enock Paradzai of PTUZ, while Mr Dzatsunga is the new secretary. Apex Council is an umbrella body which brings together public sector unions in salary negotiations with Government.