Civil servants must be patient with Government

by | Mar 11, 2021 | Politics | 0 comments

Nevanji Munyaradzi Chiondegwa

In October 2020 on the sidelines of a tour to Chimanimani, where he had gone to check on the progress made in resettling Cyclone Idai survivors, President Mnangagwa remarked on the repeated threats of strike by teachers.

President Mnangagwa declared that Government was not going to be held at ransom or arm-twisted by striking teachers.

There have also been other voices added to the issue, asking teachers to be reasonable in their demands and with the employer saying they will pay what they can afford.
Government is very much alive to the fact that the salaries civil servants are receiving may need an upward review, this was highlighted to worker representatives.

The worker representatives also received explanations on why Government is unable to increase salaries to the levels teachers are demanding.
In September 2020, Government met with worker representatives workers and there was no consensus on salaries but Government offered a Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA).

After the meeting, workers representatives issued the following statements:
Zimbabwe Medical Association (Zima) national president Dr Francis Chiwora commended the Government for the move saying any top up was welcome and would make a difference.
“It is a positive development. We do not know how much it is, but it is a good thing. As you know, civil servants’ salaries are not good. They have been eroded by inflation which makes it very difficult for workers to continue doing their jobs. If we also could have the civil servants paid the equivalent of what they were earning at the time when they were earning United States dollars, that would make life much easier, but any increment is most welcome,” said Dr Chiwora.

Apex Council deputy chairperson Mr David Dzatsunga said the move by the Government showed that authorities were committed to addressing the plight of public sector workers
“We are yet to make a collective statement on the Government’s offer so we are meeting next week. However, the offer shows that Government is aware that our salaries are inadequate. It is an admission on their part so it’s a good starting point and a step in the right direction. We need to get back to our members to deliberate on the latest offer and also wait for the negotiations to resume,” said Mr Dzatsunga.

Zimbabwe Nurses Association president Mr Enock Dongo appreciated the gesture by the Government.

“Government has acknowledged that the salaries for civil servants are not enough. We appreciate that they have realized that our salaries have been eroded,” said Mr Dongo.
Government responsibilities do not start and end with paying civil servants salaries.

They include but is not limited to extending social services to all citizens in the country and infrastructure development.
It is a fact that the economy could be better.

Now given that scenario, what must be supreme in our minds is while some are in a position to make demands, what then of the old lady in Tamandai in Chipinge who has no pension to even talk of?
What of the young lady in Kenzamba in Hurungwe who failed to finish school? We refer here to the voice without an outlet.
That is where Government becomes their answer and you hear these people say; “Dai hurumende kana dai President vatibatsirawo tawana kurarama( We wish Government or the President could help us so that we may get a source of livelihood or food).”

Every year, Government draws up a budget showing monies it expects to raise and how much it will use and how it is going to be used.
Before a budget is drawn, consultative meetings across the length and breadth of the country are held on how the people expect the monies to be used.
In the rural areas, people raises issues of boreholes, roads, schools, clinics, electricity, cattle dipping chemicals and even the broken down diptanks, dams, hunger in the rural areas, high school fees.
In the same vein, civil servants wanted their salaries increased, drawing from the same national cake.

Presently, civil servants are slightly above or below five hundred thousand.
The private sector employs around three hundred thousand excluding those employed on farms.
Of those employed in the private sector ninety thousand are in the manufacturing industry.
Our issue though is on civil servants vis-a-vis the national budget.

From 2000 to 2017, out of all the money collected or raised by government from taxes, royalties, excise duties and from any other sources, 92 percent of that went towards paying salaries of the 500000 civil servants.
This left only 8 percent for other functions like Capital Expenditure, which is infrastructural development, social services for the rural communities and the poor urban dwellers, health-care, agriculture, electrical power generation, etc. In the end, to meet these costs, central government had to borrow thus raising national debt.

Many people complain when they hear that Government debt has grown not knowing it grows from the very demands they make.

Urban dwellers have been getting electricity at heavily subsidized prices. Fuel too was being subsidized this is because government is aware that it has a much larger pool to focus on than just 500000 civil servants.
Government had to even borrow to purchase electricity from South Africa, Mozambique and DRC to meet our local needs.

For too long, we have ignored infrastructure development such as roads, dams, electricity generating plants and also rural electrification. Furthermore social services and amenities like schools, hospitals and boreholes for the rural poor have largely been ignored and yet, 65 percent of our people are in rural areas.

Now this was so because 92 percent of all the budgeted and available funds would have been directed towards workers salaries.
This led to our infrastructure to be dilapidated. Currently, 50 percent of government budget is going to meet workers salaries with the rest being focused on other government expenditure.
Last year, going by hectarage under crop alone, was by far the largest by our farmers but there was no rainfall and since there are no dams for irrigation, this meant loss of harvest.
In the 2017/2018 cropping season, our farmers had also had the highest tobacco harvest by kilogram than any other years including Rhodesian period but the quality was affected by poor rainfall and therefore the purchase price was low.

We have had three successive seasons of low rainfall due to climate change and because we do not have enough dams, and are unable to capture the little that falls. We are then unable to sustain our farming with irrigation.

By now, most of us have come across pictures and videos being circulated across all forms of media from traditional to social media. Whatsapp groups, Facebook and Twitter are full of photographs and videos of dams being constructed, power generation plants, roads, clinics and hospitals, schools, irrigation being revamped and opened, boreholes being drilled and repaired across the country.
This is because now, all the money is not going towards salaries for civil servants and can therefore be directed towards production. The New Dispensation has focused on infrastructure development hinged on Vision2030, Towards an upper middle economy.

In July, Government bought maize worth USD208 million and by year end the projected costs would be over USD500 million.
This maize is what was being given free of charge to our vulnerable in the rural areas and town.
It was also the same which was being offered at a token price under the subsidized mealie meal facility.

We all witnessed the queues for the mealie-meal. The money directed towards the purchase of this maize, had Central Government directed it towards civil servants would have been sufficient for the 500000 of them to smile to the bank for 10 months but meaning we starve 14 million people!
Where Are We Headed?

To date, Central Givernement has been spending more than budgeted and Zimbabwe has been importing more than we have been exporting. Soon after launch of TSP , Finance and Economic Development Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube warned that reversing the country’s twin deficits — the fiscal deficit, where expenditures were disproportionately more than revenues, and the external deficit through which imports were significantly larger than exports — would involve a great deal of pain.

Yearly we have been using USD300 000 to import soya beans and crude oil for manufacturing cooking oil and USD$124 million to import wheat.
This year however, we have been able to to grow wheat that can sustain us for nine months.

This is has been possible because we have not focused only on civil servants salaries. Same model is being applied to other crops.
If we do not grow enough maize, we will pump out USD500 million for its importation.

Ninety four percent of total our total foreign currency earnings are from rural based operations especially mining and farming.
Tobacco farming alone brings in around USD1,2 billion yearly. Government is focusing on feeding the people as well as purchasing inputs for farming especially Pfumvudza and Command Agriculture.
Should these two programs succeed, it would mean USD500 million would have been released and can be transferred to other uses like meeting civil servants salaries.
Zimbabwe needs 2,3 metric tonnes cereal per annum for consumption and Government has targeted 2 million households to distribute inputs to grow cereals through Pfumvudza.

These households are expected to produce 2 million metric tonnes, with the difference coming from Command Agriculture.
A different write-up on Pfumvudza and why it is being touted as a guaranteed solution will come in a follow-up article.
One million households are also being supplied with tick grease, this is meant to protect 5,5 million head of cattle.
Ninety five percent of our national herd is owned by communal farmers.

Government is trying to find means that does not include increasing the national debt to make sure that our rural poor have reached food sustainability through provision of inputs and dams.
When their lives improve, then government subsidies in schools and hospitals for their sake will be lifted since they would now be able to pay on their own.

Government is trying not to focus all its income on civil servants salaries but towards capital expenditure so that in future it may earn more money that will then enable it to pay civil servants better salaries.
In short, Government is saying, let us not consume all the little we have currently so that we invest it for bigger future returns.

Government has no other sources of income so the only method is to make sure the little that is available is not put aside for civil servants salaries only but to be evenly distributed to increase the size of the national cake to sustain all.