This week the Zimbabwean government shuffled its regulations concerning the imports of motor vehicles, backing off a proposed ban on imports of used cars more than five years old while maintaining a ban on imports of left-hand-drive vehicles starting November 1, then announcing that civil servants will be allowed to import vehicles duty free.
In addition, the government will make loans of up to US$7,000 to senior civil servants for the purchase of vehicles, repayable over a period of 10 years. The government recently shot down the proposed purchase of new cars for every member of Parliament.
Deputy Public Service Minister Andrew Langa said the facility will benefit ministerial deputy directors and above. "We have limited resources, but the aim is to make sure the scheme cascades down to the other grades," Langa said.
"It might appear as if it is not fair, but we have realized their offices are too mobile hence the reason for giving them priority," said Langa, a member of President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party. With the efforts the government is putting, more workers will benefit."
Civil service representatives Tendayi Chikowore, president of the APEX Council which negotiates on behalf of public employees, and Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe General Secretary Raymond Majongwe, criticized the government for taking credit for the plan for duty-free vehicle imports which they said they proposed to offset low pay.
Chikowore said there are many more issues that must be addressed to improve the plight of public workers ranging from teachers to administrators to police.
Most public workers do not make much more than $200 a month though many receive housing and transportation allowances in addition to base salary.
Finance Minister Tendai Biti has said his ability to raise public salaries is constrained not only by a tight budget but by the large number of "ghost workers" on state payrolls.