Some government employees who are yet to receive their 2015 bonus have expressed dismay in the manner the government has reneged on the 13th cheque payment initially slated for November 2015 and pushed to January this year.
It still remains unclear if all civil servants will get their bonuses that were promised by President Robert Mugabe after Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa announced that the government was too broke to pay 13th cheques last year.
The Zimbabwe government announced recently that it will stagger bonus payments due to its tight fiscal space caused by a non-performing economy.
This has infuriated state workers who say they should have been paid their bonuses last year.
A Mutare-based teacher, Pardon Mazhambe, said he is unhappy with what the government is doing though indications are that it is almost broke.
Mazhambe said he is now heavily indebted and cannot meet his financial obligations due to the non-payment of his bonus.
“I have so many accounts that need to be settled and my only hope of doing so is through the bonus that still remains outstanding up to now.”
He added that 2016 started on a low note and indications are that this will continue, forcing workers to live from hand to mouth.
Another government employee, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals as he has no authority to speak to the media without official clearance, said it is highly unlikely that the state will pay workers the promised bonuses.
Some government employees have been shying away from openly discussing the outstanding bonuses as it has suddenly become a hot issue following the arrest of 20 policemen in Bindura district, who created a WhatsApp chat in which they were discussing the non-payment of 13th cheques.
First were journalists, who were sucked into the controversy when it was reported in a local daily newspaper that the government had allegedly secretly paid bonuses of operatives of its spy agency, the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO).
Newsday deputy editor, Nqaba Matshazi, journalist Xolisani Ncube, and Sifikile Thabethe, a representative of their company, Alpha Media Holdings, are facing charges of allegedly writing falsehoods.
This is scaring a lot of government workers though some of them are adamant that they are entitled to the bonuses even if the government’s coffers are in bad shape.
State employee, Charles Garwe, said though most workers doubt that the government will pay the bonuses, they believe that 13th cheques normally boost the morale of workers and their disposable income.
“We would appreciate if the bonus is paid as promised as it has put us in the deep end. We had made so many plans around the money and failure to pay is very suicidal to many of us.”
The situation is not the same with some workers in the non-profit making business, whose contracts do not include any bonus payment.
Louis Kahari, who works for a local non-governmental organization, said his three-year contract does not have any bonus provision since they don’t make any profit.
“We had not been promised any bonus and therefore we had not made any plans on it and its life as usual for some of us in the NGO sector, but I am sorry for my colleagues in government who anticipated it.”
The non-payment of civil servants’ bonuses has suddenly become very political and in the same vein disrupted plans of most government employees, including other downstream beneficiaries of the 13th cheque.