Lloyd Gumbo Mr Speaker Sir
Recently, I visited a cousin who is a member of the Air Force of Zimbabwe at Manyame Air Base and as they escorted me out together with his friends, we met a farmworker from a nearby farm, who was over the moon celebrating that he had received $140 in salary and bonus.
“Handitaure nemasoja haana mari,” he exclaimed.
“Ini ndinemari dzangu. Kutaura kudai ndine $140; ndatambira bonus masoja akangoti vavava. Munoda bonus kuti maitei?
“Mozouya nevamwe venyu ndokutengerai doro munotambura ka imi.”
The farm worker is paid $70 per month so they received 100 percent bonus, which saw him pocket $140.
The farm worker did not care that his earnings for the month including bonus were way below soldiers’ basic monthly salary; all he wanted was to send a point home that members of the public service were yet to receive their bonuses, let alone their December salaries, while farm workers were drowning in merriment.
Mr Speaker Sir, over the Christmas holidays, the most popular messages on social media were the ones that ridiculed members of the public service who were yet to receive their salaries.
Yes, the country is going through a difficult economic patch, which has seen Government struggling to meet its salary obligations on time, but the question is, “Do these Government employees deserve such ridicule?”
The same people who accept to teach our children in public schools even when we default on fees payments, the same people who are always ready to treat us and our relatives at public hospitals when we fall sick or get involved in accidents, the same people who ensure that there is peace and tranquillity in the country by keeping watch every day and night to ensure no enemy comes to attack us?
These are the same people who give us service when we go to Government ministries and departments.
Imagine sending your children to school only to find teachers not there, or rushing to a public health centre with a relative who is critically ill, and find it closed because there are no personnel, or the country being exposed to foreign invasion because members of the security forces have downed tools.
Given the economic challenges facing the country, not many people can afford service in the private sector because of their capitalist tendencies.
Mr Speaker Sir, how many parents would afford to send their children to private schools where fees are in their thousands or to private hospitals where overnight admission runs into hundreds of dollars?
This is how critical the public service is to Zimbabwe, because without them there is no Zimbabwe to talk about where the generality of citizens are unable to access services.
Every Zimbabwean has a close relative who is in the public service, so it would be amiss for anyone to celebrate when the same people do not receive their salaries after serving diligently for the whole year.
One of the major reasons Treasury has struggled to meet its salary obligations timely is the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority’s challenges.
(Zimra) is the only major source of income for Government at the moment.
To make matters worse, the bulk of that income goes towards the meagre salaries for the public service leaving no room for capital expenditure.
Mr Speaker Sir, what people must accept is that Zimra does not generate money, but just collects, and if the source shrinks it means the revenue that finds its way to Zimra also drops.
The fact that we cannot print money or access budgetary support from international financial institutions to meet national requirements shows the extraordinary situation that we find ourselves in.
There has not been much activity in the economy, which explains why our national budget has been hovering around $4 billion since the introduction of the multicurrency regime.
It is for that reason that Government must come up with innovative ways to attract new money into the market.
Yes, the mega deals will improve service in Zimbabwe, but they are unlikely to bring capital, because what our Chinese friends will give us are the projects and not money.
Mr Speaker Sir, we should not pretend as if we are the only country with resources that investors would yearn for.
We have the same resources that our neighbours have and with their policies that are friendly to investment, they will benefit ahead of us.
There is no need to continue grandstanding and presenting ourselves as if we don’t need investment.
At the moment there is no adequate capital in the local market to exploit the many resources that we have.
We desperately need investment, but we should put mechanisms in place to ensure that the country benefits.
We need new money in the market and Government must fulfil its election promises of creating employment by opening up to investment that will create opportunities for thousands of university graduates coming out of universities every year.
That way, Zimra will collect more money which would enable Treasury to meet its salary obligations timely.
The civil servants have been resilient and patient, and for that reason, they deserve respect for they are our heroes and heroines who have kept the country ticking.
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