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Struggling Zimbabweans Going to Work Everyday Despite Salary Arrears

Some of the workers say going to work is a ritual to them, adding that staying at home would be life-threatening.

For years many Zimbabweans have been going without their full salaries as companies struggle to cope in the prevailing harsh economic climate.

Some have not been paid for three years and others 12 months; the time varies. Even after laying off hundreds, firms are still failing to cope as liquidity problems afflict the nation due to a number of factors, including low production.

What motivates some employees to religiously go to work even when they are owed huge amounts in salaries and allowances by their companies.

The majority of Zimbabwean workers appear to have for the past decade or so been providing their companies with free labour and earning peanuts in the process. Some have been getting just enough to pay for their daily commute while others have been walking long distances to and from their work places every day.


It has been unbearable, bordering almost on slavery but even more traumatizing is being educated but jobless.

Many are walking on a cliff edge with former employment giants such as Ziscosteel christened NewZim Steel, the National Railways of Zimbabwe and Hwange Colliery, among others, owing workers several months salaries.

However a hardened lot, Zimbabwean workers still wake up to go to work even with dry bank accounts.

Rumbidzai Ndlovu says that going to work is a ritual to her, adding staying at home would be life threatening.

“I continue to go to work because as an educated person I feel comforted that I have something to do. Staying at home can be very stressful whereas at work I can use the internet and at least I will be with other people.”

Ndlovu says she's driven by the hope that things will take a turn for the better in Zimbabwe and companies will turnaround their fortunes.

“There is always hope that one day they are going to pay us all the amounts that they owe us so that we are able to pay for our water and electricity bills that are now very high.”


However, for enterprising Tarisai Moyo, going to work gives her an opportunity to sell her wares. Moyo, who works for a Harare public relations firm, says despite the fact that she goes to work every day to conduct her own business, she last got paid in June.

“I have gone for six months without a salary. It is a very difficult situation I am finding myself in. However going to work is a good platform for me to be able to sell chickens. I sell them on credit and give them to some of our customers.”

The economic downturn has not only affected employment in the country but also social services. For Onesmos Changara, going to work is a temporary escape from other problems bedeviling the country.

e says, “We can't just sit at home where there is no electricity, water and food. We find it better to go and spend time with colleagues at work.”


Some workers have been complaining, however, that despite their failure to pay them, most companies even have the audacity to ask them to fill in attendance log sheets. The sheets are being used to beat the workers into submission with bosses claiming those who fail to turn-up for work may lose some benefits.

A NewZimsteel worker, who refused to be identified, said he is still going to work as a means to keeping his company house in Torwood, Kwekwe. NewZimSteel has not paid salaries since 2009.

“The reason why I am still reporting for duty is to keep my company house. We are still asked to log in and out. I can not afford rentals at the moment.”

Some analysts have described the current situation in Zimbabwe's companies as exploitation or enslavement, adding it will only come to an end the day Zimbabweans decide to withhold their labour.

There are reports that even some companies that are making money are taking advantage of the situation and either not paying or delaying salaries for employees to their own benefit.

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