Tendai Mugabe Senior Reporter
FINANCE and Economic Development minister Patrick Chinamasa yesterday said President Mugabe’s directive to reinstate civil servants bonuses will be implemented as directed saying the announcement of the suspension of bonuses for two years had been due to procedural mistakes.
Minister Chinamasa’s comments come in the wake of President Mugabe’s announcement that the suspension of civil servants bonuses was null and void as neither Cabinet nor the Presidency had approved the move.
Minister Chinamasa had announced the suspension of civil servants’ bonuses for the next two years in line with measures aimed at creating fiscal space to fund Zim-Asset.
Although the announcement was welcomed by economists as a painful but necessary measure, President Mugabe said the Presidency and Cabinet had not approved the decision.
Addressing thousands of Zimbabweans who gathered to celebrate the country’s 35th Independence anniversary at the National Sports Stadium on Saturday, President Mugabe assured Government workers that they would be paid their 13th cheque as usual.
Minister Chinamasa admitted mistakes were made.
“I acknowledge we have committed mistakes and overlooked the procedures but these mistakes are understandable and have been made in good faith.
“We were bound to make the mistakes given the budgetary pressures weighing heavily on the shoulders of Treasury. Primarily the challenges we are facing in meeting the 2014 bonus commitments, the challenges to do with the payment of pensions and wages for our foreign missions.
“The challenges to do with our failure to remit contributions to the Premier Service Medical Aid Society for the good health of the bulk of civil servants as well as the challenge in meeting the debt repayment commitments we have made to our creditors so as to open doors in the future for new resources to be made available to us so as to sustain our country’s journey to economic recovery,” he said.
Minister Chinamasa said also alarming is the increasing failure to pass on salary deductions under the stop order system to various creditors of civil servants.
He said to overcome the challenges Government feels the urge to work hard to pursue efforts which lead to economic recovery.
“We must run if not sprint so as to make up for lost time. In the process we have tripped and made some mistakes and I am happy that His Excellency (President Mugabe) in his speech at the Independence celebrations has corrected our mistakes and in a manner has lifted us back to our feet and given us a clear command and mandate to continue the effort to find and ‘explore ways of cutting down the bloated public service wage bill’ which continues to be an albatross around our necks. It is eating into funds which should be deployed towards financing Zim-Asset,” he said.
Addressing thousands of people who gathered for the main 35th Independence anniversary celebrations at the National Sports Stadium on Saturday, President Mugabe said Government will pay its employees the 13th cheque come year-end.
“I want to thank all our public servants for the support they gave to the Government, support which has seen us go through the year in peace and harmony, go through the year in achieving some of our programmes.
“We have maintained peace, indeed. We have done much as what was afforded by our financial capacity. I want to say, through the Public (Service) Commission, thank you, thank you civil servants.
“At the same time, I want to make it clear that the reports in the newspapers, that bonuses were being withdrawn, is not Government policy.
“The Cabinet did not approve all that and the Presidency was never, never consulted on the matter. We were never consulted; the three of us, and that is myself and the Vice Presidents. And we say that is disgusting to us and it will never be implemented at all. So, let the civil servants not be down-hearted; that will not happen. The rules are that when Government bestows a benefit on civil servants, that benefit cannot be withdrawn because it has become a right.
“That is there in the rules, and our rules handling the governing of public servants. When they are given a benefit, we cannot reverse it at all. It has become their right and that is what we stand by. So, your bonuses will come to you,” President Mugabe said.
Minister Chinamasa spoke as civil servants yesterday hailed President Mugabe for reinstating their bonuses saying his intervention was a much-needed morale and confidence booster.
A wave of despondency, they said, threatened to cripple service delivery following the announcement of the suspension of bonuses.
In separate interviews, civil service unions said President Mugabe’s pronouncement brought relief to Government employees.
Zimta chief executive officer Mr Sifiso Ndlovu said the bold announcement showed that the President cared about the plight of workers.
“The announcement by the Head of State and Government is a demonstration that he is a principled leader with the interests of the workers at heart,” he said.
“It is also a moral and confidence restoration move. We have always been questioning the validity of the announcement made by the Minister (Chinamasa).
“As civil servants we feel that the announcement by the President will reduce the amount of despondency that was already building in the civil service as a result of the announcement by the Finance Minister.”
Civil servants, Mr Ndlovu said, would now press on the provision of other non-monetary benefits promised by Government.
He said such benefits were long overdue although Government had committed to fund them through the National Social Security Authority.
“Government promised way back to implement non monetary benefits through mobilising NSSA funds,” he said.
“Now that the issue of bonuses is resolved, we now have fertile ground to discuss the provision of such benefits.”
College Lecturers Association of Zimbabwe president Mr David Dzatsunga said they were happy with the President’s intervention which he said was humanistic and pro-poor.
“We are quite happy that the President has stepped in to save the situation that had already dispirited the entire civil service,” he said.
“The President’s announcement is evident that this attempt to deny us our bonuses was illegal.
“It is very instructive to note that as civil service unions we were not consulted on this matter the same way the Presidency was not also consulted. In this regard, we applaud the intervention by the President and it shows that he has the workers at heart.”
Mr Dzatsunga said Minister Chinamasa’s announcement was not only a slap to the civil servants but the generality of workers in Zimbabwe.
He said even the private sector took a cue from Government and the precedence that Minister Chinamasa attempted to set was not only irrational but also not unacceptable.
Last week, economists applauded the scrapping of civil servants bonuses saying that would eventually lead to full national economic recovery.
Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries president Mr Charles Msipa described the move as a good essential starting point.
Employers Confederation of Zimbabwe president Mr Jack Murehwa, said Government had taken a rational business decision.
Mr Murehwa said if the bonuses were to be paid, then Government would have to borrow the additional cash or raise additional taxes and levies in an environment where business and individuals were already seriously taxed. Econometer Global Capital head of research Mr Takunda Mugaga said to grow an economy harsh steps needed to be taken.