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Cash-Strapped Zimbabwe Issues Contradictory Statements on Civil Servants' Bonuses

Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa
Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa

The crisis ridden Zimbabwe government is again issuing conflicting statements on the payment of overdue bonuses owed to civil servants. The bonuses are routinely paid in November and December

Treasury was expected by the end of March to pay bonuses to members of the Zimbabwe Republic Police, Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services and the health sector but failed to meet its obligation.

A statement released in the morning by Health Services Board executive director, Ruth Kaseke, showed the dysfunction in government.

The statement directed to secretary for Health and Child Care, Brigadier General Gerald Gwinji, read: “As you might be aware bonus payment for Health Workers had been scheduled for today, (Thursday) 31st March 2016. Please advise all institutions that there has been a delay in the honoring of this commitment and we await details from treasury.”

Later, Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa issued a somewhat contradictory statement saying, “As previously communicated, government is paying the 2015 bonus payments on a staggered basis, with the first installment having been made end of February 2016. The next proposed payment date is for end March 2016. In this regard, 2015 bonus payments for members of the Zimbabwe Republic Police are being made tomorrow (Friday), 1 April 2016.”

Chinamasa’s statement further said, “To allow for mobilization of additional resources, 2015 bonus payments to members of the Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services and staff under the Health sector will be made on Thursday 7th April 2016. The 2015 bonus payment dates for the Education Sector and the rest of the civil service remain as previously communicated, that is, 30th April, 2016 and 31st May, 2016 respectively.”

Chinamasa in February said members of the defense forces - who include the Zimbabwe National Army and the Air Force of Zimbabwe - were to be paid that month, followed by the Zimbabwe Republic Police, Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services and the health sector in March.

Only the defense forces have been paid to date in what many government workers allege is a divide and rule tactic.

Due to tight fiscal space, Chinamasa had early last year contemplated suspending payment of bonuses for 2015 and 2016.

Chinamasa said economic activity was depressed and with more people working in the informal sector where they do not pay taxes, it was unsustainable to continue paying the bonuses.

The move irked civil servants and President Robert Mugabe overturned the suspension saying “when government bestows a benefit on civil servants, that benefit cannot be withdrawn because it has become a right.”

At its peak, the country had two million workers in formal employment, but the figure has shrunk to a paltry 500,000 in the last decade.

Chinamasa says Zimbabwe spends $260 million on salaries every month or 82% of the total revenues raised from taxes. Cutting the wage bill is part of reforms agreed with the International Monetary Fund under an ongoing plan to revamp the economy.

President of the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association Dr Fortune Nyamande told VOA Studio 7 that they were expecting their bonuses Thursday as promised by treasury but thy were not paid. He said there was no formal communication from the government as to why it had failed to honor its promise.

Interview with Dr Fortune Nyamande
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