HARARE – Fed-up civil servants have accused President Robert Mugabe’s broke government of using divide and rule tactics in its dealings with them, after it was announced that soldiers, the police and prison officers would receive their salaries ahead of everyone else this month.
This emerged after government negotiators met with representatives of public servants on Wednesday, and as angry medical personnel and teachers threatened to escalate their mass actions over the State’s failure to pay salaries on time and to honour its bonus promises.
Sources who were present at the meeting also told the Daily News yesterday that “nothing useful” had emerged from the gathering, amid signs that the ongoing talks between the employer and its employees could collapse completely.
One of the thorny issues that emerged at the meeting was the January pay schedule that was released by the government, where the State would pay the army and the police ahead of other civil servants — a tactic that union representatives described as “an oppressive divide and rule” manoeuvre.
Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) secretary-general Raymond Majongwe told the Daily News that civil servants almost declared a deadlock at the Wednesday gathering, but were hamstrung by the fact that policy specifies that this can only be done on the third meeting.
“We protested against the clear bias in favour of the military and we were advised that changing the cycle would create confusion. But having reported this to our members, we now ask our structures to debate and give us guidance on the way forward,” Majongwe said.
According to the released pay schedule for January, soldiers will get their salaries on January 16, followed by the police and prison service on January 20, while teachers will get their wages on January 27, with the rest of the civil service getting paid on the 30th.
“Last year, we got our bonuses after Christmas, soldiers got theirs before then. This year we got our salaries after Christmas, soldiers got theirs before and now we are supposed to be paid after they and their police counterparts have been paid again. How do you explain this?” Majongwe fumed.
Teachers hold placards during a demonstration recently.
Civil servants had also insisted during the meeting that they wanted the government to give them the exact dates when their bonuses would be paid. However, the government was noncommittal on the issue, citing a non-performing economy.
“The final government position was that they will bring the exact dates at a meeting pencilled for the 8th of February. They also made it clear that the bonus payments will be staggered.
“Civil servants also protested against government plans to rationalise the civil service, saying they were not happy with the way it had handled the audit outcomes, with the government promising to facilitate a meeting on January 20 to deal with the issue.
“We also demanded non-monetary benefits in view of the deteriorating conditions of service but as usual government made the promise that they will deliver on this item later”.
“We told them we want land to build our own houses, not these Nssa initiatives that will benefit government bigwigs. On pensions, our demand was very clear that these deductions must stop forthwith. The best compromise we can make is just a deduction of not more than $10,” another employer representative who attended the Wednesday meeting said.
Meanwhile, divisions have rocked the Apex council, the body that represents all government workers during negotiations with the State, over who should replace Richard Gundane as the council president following the expiry of his term last year.
Gundane, who was not immediately available for comment as his mobile phone was not reachable, is allegedly wants to extend his term of office in what other unions view as another government tactic to “divide and rule” them.
“Like his predecessor Tendai Chikowore who stayed in power for seven years, he wants to remain there, yet his executive was the worst there ever was.
“We are saying by now a new leadership should be representing us during negotiations because the current executive no longer has the mandate of the unions.
“For us we already have Cecilia Alexander as our candidate and we have demanded that we have elections during our next meeting,” Majongwe thundered.