Oliver Kazunga Senior Reporter
CIVIL servants unions yesterday said they welcomed President Robert Mugabe’s announcement that civil servants’ would get annual bonuses and criticised Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa for “unilaterally” cancelling their 13th cheque.
Chinamasa last week said civil servants’ bonuses had been suspended for the next two years as government sought to tame its ballooning wage bill.
The government’s wage bill stands at $260 million every month.
Addressing thousands of people at the 35th Independence Day celebrations at the National Sports Stadium on Saturday, the President, in an off-the-cuff remarks, dismissed Chinamasa’s pronouncement saying the Presidency and Cabinet did not approve the suspension of civil servants bonuses.
He said there was no such policy position.
President Mugabe assured civil servants that government would pay its employees a 13th cheque come year end.
Civil servants unions yesterday welcomed the President’s announcement saying it came as a relief following Chinamasa’s sentiments.
“We’re very much relieved by the announcement made by the President. The announcement comes at a time when the minister (Chinamasa) had caused a lot of anxiety, mayhem and despondency among the public service.
“We were wondering where he got that information from. His sentiments were ill-advised because we were never consulted about that matter,” said the Zimbabwe Teachers’ Association (Zimta) chief executive officer, Sifiso Ndlovu.
He applauded the President, saying he was a principled leader who would not just shift goal posts willy-nilly.
“We’re not pleased with people who change positions willy-nilly. That’s bad for any steward of the economy. Even if there’s going to be a change of policy, it has to be discussed with all the public service representatives before an announcement is made,” said Ndlovu.
Chinamasa had said the suspension of civil servants’ annual bonuses was “one of the many” drastic measures government would take to create fiscal space to finance ZimAsset.
He said the bonus obligation for last year was $172,6 million, with $159,3 million having been paid to various government departments, while $13,4 million was outstanding for State universities.
Following his pronouncement, the public service has rejected the bonus suspension demanding a salary structure linked to the Poverty Datum Line (PDL) for the lowest paid worker.
The country’s PDL stands at $505 while the lowest paid public sector employee earns about $352 per month.
Public Service Association president Cecilia Alexander said: “The announcement by the President came as a relief to us. We were surprised when Chinamasa made his announcement because if the government takes a position with regards to our welfare, it uses the right channels.”
“We’re also opposed to the minister’s sentiments as it wasn’t proper to make such an announcement when we were about to celebrate our Independence.”
She added: “Going forward, we implore the minister to learn to use laid down channels not only on bonuses but on all issues regarding our welfare.
“The minister has in the past made negative comments about our welfare, we believe that isn’t proper.”
She said when Chinamasa assumed office in 2013, he mentioned that government would pay salaries linked to the PDL.
“We thought that was going to be implemented in 2014 but it hasn’t been done. And just recently, we presented our paper with regards to PDL-linked salaries,” said Alexander.
She said if the government had challenges in paying PDL-linked salaries the matter had to be deliberated on with all union representatives to map the way forward.
Apex Council president Richard Gundane could not be reached for comment on his mobile phone yesterday.