President Mugabe’s panicking administration, which is struggling to contain growing civil unrest over the country’s worsening rot, faces a new crisis after angry civil servants warned yesterday that they would stage another crippling strike to protest his broke government’s unilateral decision to retrench workers and freeze bonuses.
The threat of another ginormous strike by the fed-up civil servants comes as the embattled Zanu PF government, which is battling myriad political and economic crises, has warned that it will crush all dissenting voices in the country.After under-pressure Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa announced on Thursday that the government would implement a raft of emergency measures, including retrenching tens of thousands of its workers, in a desperate endeavour to mitigate the effects of the country’s dying economy, shocked civil service union leaders accused him of “ambushing” them with his “decree”.
Progressive Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) secretary-general Raymond Majongwe also accused Chinamasa of being insensitive to the plight of government workers.“The bottom line is that PTUZ says no to this nonsense by the government. Comrades, it’s either we eat or we are eaten. This is the time to fight. If we let this go on, we will not have salaries in October.
“The little we are receiving is not enough and you want to take that from us. If it means we are ending up in prison so be it. We have to stand up. This is a call for anyone who cares. We are going to protest and protest violently,” the fuming Majongwe said.
“The government has shown us that they don’t care about us anymore. They agreed to cut our allowances by between five to 20 percent. They will also dismiss 25 000 workers, and minister Chinamasa also suspended bonuses for 2016 and 2017.“It is unheard of that a government cuts salaries, especially allowances that are a result of collective bargaining agreements,” he added.
An agitated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (RTUZ) president, Obert Musaraure, called for the resignation of Mugabe and Chinamasa, accusing them of being unaware of their mandate.“We are going to take to the streets in protest over our paymaster’s insensitive proposals. RTUZ is calling for the resignation of Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa and his master . . . Mugabe following yesterdays’ (Thursday’s) proposal to withdraw bonuses and tax allowances, ostensibly to spruce up the failed economy.
“We no longer have confidence in this government and we are calling on them to shape up or ship out. They have proven over the years that they do not have the needs of people at heart and possess questionable economic, political and social principles. We cannot continue to be victims of a failed state,” he added.
The umbrella body for civil servants, the Apex Council, also said yesterday it would seek the government’s audience to get a full appraisal on Chinamasa’s proposals, adding ominously that it had been kept “in the dark” about the announced measures.“While the intent to reduce the civil service wage bill is cited as the premise of the International Monetary Fund-inspired cuts, we the workers do not believe the economy will benefit from such insensitive and anti-labour solutions.
“To start with, the budget proposals on the so-called civil service rationalisation are being made without due consultation and thus are in breach of workers’ constitutional rights to consult and be consulted,” Apex Council spokesperson George Mushipe told the Daily News.“We believe that these measures are ill-conceived and can only further entrench the doom and gloom that has become the lot of the average civil servant.
“Without going into details, it is common cause that civil servants in Zimbabwe are grossly underpaid and any further taxation as proposed will worsen an already hopeless situation,” Mushipe added.
Presenting his mid-term fiscal policy review in Parliament on Thursday, Chinamasa — who also revised further downwards the country’s GDP growth projection to a mere 1,2 percent from the 1,4 percent announced in May, after an initial projection of 2,7 percent — admitted that Zimbabwe was facing grave economic challenges, particularly a worsening budget deficit.
“In this regard, under the forthcoming 2017 national Budget, I will be proposing measures that target employment costs of $232 million per month by June 2017, and $219 million by December 2017.“This reduction is proposed to be achieved largely through downsizing the civil service from the current level of 298 000. It is anticipated that the phased rationalisation of the civil service will bring down the size of the work force to 273 000.
“The target to reduce employment numbers from the current 298 000 to 273 000 by end of 2017 will yield annual savings of $155 million, which would go towards supporting various development projects,” Chinamasa said.
The government has for the past few months been struggling to pay its huge civil service as a result of the country’s dying economy, whose contraction has triggered waves of protests by desperate citizens.
The parlous state of government coffers has also forced Chinamasa to introduce new taxes on civil servants’ allowances, with effect from next month.He also stated that he was going to rationalise all public sector foreign travel expenditure, including for ministers, parliamentarians, independent commissions and parastatal officials.
But Chinamasa’s predecessor Tendai Biti said yesterday that the minister’s proposed remedial actions were illegal.
“So he says he will have saved $180 million by the end of 2016. What’s $180 million when the deficit is more than $3 billion? This is a big joke. Cutting bonuses is illegal, civil servants don’t save, bonuses represent their savings.
“The bottom line is that it is not possible to have reform without reformers. Besides, Zanu PF will not reform itself out of power,” the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) leader said.
Mugabe, in power since 1980 when Zimbabwe gained its independence from Britain, is facing the biggest challenge to his 36 year-rule which critics say has been catastrophic.
Zimbabwe is currently deep in the throes of a debilitating economic crisis which has given rise to waves of protests and riots by ordinary citizens who blame public sector corruption and the government’s policies for the current rot.
Since the economy began experiencing serious turbulence, including witnessing banks running out of cash, this has put the government under growing pressure as angry Zimbabweans have mounted seemingly unending demonstrations.
Mugabe and his panicking government recently despairingly tried to contain the protests by invoking a ban on demonstrations but this was rejected by the courts which ruled the decree was unconstitutional.