ZIMBABWE – President Robert Mugabe’s government and the country’s teachers could be heading for a massive confrontation that could cripple the education system in the country.
Government has failed to pay not only annual bonuses but also the December salaries in time for the first time since independence 35 years ago.
Mugabe has meanwhile gone on holiday in the Far East with his family with teachers still to be paid their December salaries and with nothing concrete said about civil servants bonuses.
In a strongly-worded statement issued on the eve of Christmas, the normally docile Zimbabwe Teachers Association (Zimta) seen as more pliable than its militant cousin the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ)said it would not be held responsible for what happens next.
“Following the national executive meeting held on the 20th of December 2015, the Zimbabwe Teachers Association wishes to advise all its stakeholders that they shall not be held responsible for the actions of the educators in January 2016 due to the following reasons; uncertainty about the December 2015 bonus pay dates,” secretary-general John Mulilo said on December 24.
Early this year, Finance minister Patrick Chinamsa and the then Information minister Jonathan Moyo convened a hastily-arranged press briefing at which they announced government had suspended the traditional “13th cheque” paid to government workers every December until 2017.
The decision was greeted with murmurs of disapproval from across the civil service, but Mugabe took advantage of the country’s Independence celebrations to reverse the decision, describing it as “disgusting”.
“It is disgusting to us. It was never a government policy not to pay civil servants bonuses. My vice- presidents [Emmerson Mnangagwa and Phelekezela Mphoko] and I were shocked to hear about that. It never came to our attention. We were never consulted. So I want to say to the civil servants, your bonuses will come to you as usual,” Mugabe said then as he watched rain-drenched soldiers parading for his inspection.
However, the more rational even in Mugabe’s government had agreed with Chinamasa given the precarious economic position the country finds itself in, and the demands by multi-lateral institutions shepherding Zimbabwe back to the international economic fold.
Mulilo said government was now developing cold feet in implementing Mugabe’s order that is normally “word’ in government, indicating a growing disregard for the ageing statesman.
“The reluctance by government to uphold and act on the promise made by His Excellency the President of Zimbabwe that all civil servants shall get their 2015 bonuses; the intention of government to introduce further deductions in form of national health schemes, maternity schemes, etc. on educators’ meagre earnings a thing that has been totally rejected as the existing meagre incomes cannot sustain more deductions,” Mulilo said.
Government workers have also been put at great risk, Mulilo said after failure by “the employer” to remit medical aid deductions to the Premier Service Medical Aid Society (Psmas).