Do civil servants deserve bonuses?

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By Mlondolozi Ndlovu

Early in the year Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe, Secretary General Raymond Majongwe said that the media was not supposed to focus on President Mugabe’s pronouncements that government would pay bonus but to focus on whether government had the money.

As it turns out now government does not have the money as they have missed the dates to pay. Perhaps we are jumping the gun by writing too early but the reality is government has no money. ZIMRA has reported that it has missed its revenue targets and there is nothing coming from the diamonds.

Soldiers and the police did not receive their bonus last week as previously expected. This has raised doubts on whether civil servants will receive their bonus this year. It seems civil servants believe they deserve and are entitled to the 13th cheque.

Government has been in talks with the IMF to reduce its workforce and a payment of a bonus at a time there is no money would confirm to the IMF that this government has no fiscal discipline and cannot be trusted with any money.

So the government is caught in between pleasing the IMF or bowing down to the demands of its civil servants especially those in the security establishment who have played a key role in keeping the ruling party in power during difficult times.

What is ironic is civil servants are expectant of a 13th cheque at a time when the rest of the workers in the country have gone without wages and salaries for months. Some workers have lost their jobs while companies have closed down in their numbers.

The civil servants seem oblivious of the fact that they are paid through tax payers’ money. Tax is collected from workers and companies which in turn pays them. When the economy is not performing well as it is now, the government simply does not collect enough money to pay a bonus.

It is particularly surprising that even the police are expecting a bonus from the treasury when they are on record of refusing to remit what they are collecting to the treasury. The police have been collecting fines and retaining the money. What are they using this money for? How do they expect the treasury to pay them if they hold on to what they collect in their operations?

A bonus is normally paid to celebrate the hard work and success that would have occurred during the year. Can we really say that this government has surpassed its expectations in service delivery? My own personal experiences in government offices are a tale of disappointment. Government officers are often rude and unhelpful. Some of them do not even come to work.

I do not know anyone who is impressed by the quality of service of civil servants be it on the roads, at our borders or in their offices. It is therefore unreasonable for civil servants to expect a bonus at a time where they have not performed well and when they know that the rest of the economy is not performing well.

The civil servants however have a right to expect after President Mugabe promised in April that they would receive the bonus. It was a needless populist pronouncement that has now got the government in a fix.

But after all factors are concerned especially the current state of the economy, civil servants ought to align their expectations with reality. They must be thankful that not a month has passed without their salaries not being paid. Other Zimbabweans have not been so lucky.

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