HARARE, Zimbabwe – Civil servants, and members of the armed forces in Zimbabwe on Friday celebrated Christmas without their usual annual bonuses.
Both civil servants and the military in the country have, in the past, always received bonuses of a month’s salary at the end of November.
But this year, government ministers got mired in a dispute about how to raise funds for the bonuses, and the money wasn’t sent to workers at the usual time.
Vice President Emerson Mnangagwa said on Nov. 19 in parliament that government workers would receive their annual bonuses, but that payment would be delayed.
But Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa told parliament as early as April that the government was financially constrained and unable to pay bonuses. However President Robert Mugabe issued a statement on the next day saying that the bonuses would be paid.
As late as Christmas eve, Minister of Finance Patrick Chinamasa was at odds with Minister of Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Patrick Zhuwawo disagreed, in the cabinet, on how funds for the bonuses could be found.
Zimbabwe needs about $100 million each month to pay salaries for its 200,000 government workers, according to finance ministry statistics.
“With 80 percent of this amount expected to go towards paying salaries, it means the government has little or no room to maneuver,” Chinamasa said on Dec. 24.
However, Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Minister Patrick Zhuwawo said on Christmas day that the government could source funds from other sources, such as those collected in a 10 percent levy due from foreign companies that have not yet offered 50 percent of their shares to Zimbabwean buyers, under the terms of a new law, through his ministry.
“We have tried to implement the legal framework imposing a punitive levy on all non-compliant foreign companies operating in Zimbabwe, and with this levy, the government should not only be able to raise money to pay salaries but bonuses as well,” Zhuwawo said.
Minister Zhuwawo claimed the Finance Minister Chinamasa was dragging his feet in paying the bonuses with these funds. He complained that the finance minister was taking this position while Mugabe was on annual leave.
However Chinamasa said that the Zimbabwean government is still reviewing the regulations imposing the fine, so that companies cannot be asked to pay it yet.
The government has also been unable to pay pensions to senior citizens for November.