CIVIL servants have urged President Robert Mugabe to fire one of his two deputies and reduce the size of his Cabinet instead of introducing measures that will further impoverish already struggling government workers.
By XOLISANI NCUBE
Representatives of the civil servants have already warned they would cripple service delivery unless government reversed its proposal to cut bonuses and tax their allowances, starting next month.
Finance minister, Patrick Chinamasa on Thursday announced that government was scrapping payment of bonuses to public workers as well as introducing taxation on their allowances as part of measures to contain a ballooning wage bill.
Progressive Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe president Takavafira Zhou said Mugabe should resign as he had failed to administer the economy instead of tempering with civil servants’ salaries.
“If Mugabe and his government are serious about cost-cutting measures, he should reduce the number of his vice-presidents. We do not need two VPs for a country like ours. This is a political statement which will be met with a political reaction,” Zhou said.
“This is the kind of dictatorship that we don’t tolerate. There are four ministers in the education cluster, why not fire three and remain with one? Why not cut the Cabinet to show that he is serious about civil servants’ issues? We are going to fight this moribund government.”
He added: “He [Mugabe] must resign and we get a more serious administration than this child’s play.”
“It’s unheard of that a government cuts salaries, especially allowances that are a result of collective bargaining agreements,” the firebrand trade union said.
The Apex council, the umbrella body of all civil servants, also came out guns blazing, accusing the government of being insensitive to their plight and vowed to oppose the proposals.
“The Apex Council would like to express its dismay at the shocking budget proposals announced by the Finance minister. While the intent to reduce the civil service wage bill is cited as the premise of the International Monetary Fund [IMF] inspired cuts, we the workers do not believe the economy will benefit from such insensitive and anti-labour solutions,” said Cecilia Alexandra, the workers’ representative team leader.
“To start with, the budget proposals on the so-called civil service rationalisation are being made without due consultation and thus in breach of workers’ constitutional rights to consult and be consulted.”
She added: “The Apex Council wishes by this statement to unequivocally reject the budget proposals by the Minister of Finance regarding retrenchments, salary cuts and suspension of bonuses. We believe these measures are ill-conceived and can only further entrench the doom and gloom that has become part and parcel of the lot of the average civil servant.”
Zimbabwe Teachers’ Association chief executive officer, Sifiso Ndlovu said government should not blame anyone if civil servants go on strike.
“Nobody should be blamed for whatever action civil servants take because this government has shown its arrogance and disdain to engagement,” Ndlovu said.
“We are appalled by the level of arrogance that this regime has taken; for sure this will not go unchallenged. Civil servants will take this seriously and respond accordingly.”
College Lecturers’ Association of Zimbabwe president, David Dzatsunga said as civil servants, they would engage Public Service minister Prisca Mupfumira to register their disbelief and inform her of their next move.
“This is war and we are not going to lose this fight. This government will know that cruelty and arrogance does not pay. For sure we are going to fight for our rights,” he said.
Rural Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe (RTUZ) also called on both Mugabe and Chinamasa to resign for failing to revive the ailing economy.
“Our members that educate children under adverse conditions in rural areas would be severely affected,” RTUZ said.
“To forego bonuses and taxing our little allowances will hit our pockets hard. We are already an impoverished lot and this will further affect our income. This will negatively affect our education delivery.”
The rural teachers said they no longer had confidence in the government.
“We are calling on them to shape up or ship out. This authority has proved over the years not to have the needs of people at heart and they propose questionable economic, political and social principles. We cannot continue to be victims of a failed state,” the rural teachers said.
“Government has in the past months been struggling to fund its wage bill, forcing it to stagger salary dates for our members and other civil servants, sometimes running into the following month. We advocate for a pro poor education system that respects all players. Government should be more progressive in dealing with its civil servants, not to be an agent of doom.”