'We'll find the cash somehow:' Mugabe to pay bonuses to civil servants to avert strike

2017-03-07 13:15
(File, AFP)

(File, AFP)

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Harare - President Robert Mugabe's government has agreed to pay civil servants their missing 13th month cheques to avert a damaging strike - but where will it get the money from?

Some Zimbabweans have been celebrating news that the bonuses will be paid in cash and staggered over the next few months.

Members of the army are to be paid first together with doctors in April, according to the official Herald newspaper. Teachers will be paid in June. Some civil servants will only get their 13th month cheque - which should have been paid last December - in August.

Bloody nose?

"Good news for civil servants even if the money is not coming right away!!" tweeted @Natsie14. The privately-owned Newsday said Mugabe had been left with a "bloody nose" after being forced to make the payouts.

However, the 93-year-old-president was in fact the one who ordered Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa to make the payments, recognising no doubt the danger of depriving restless civil servants with just a year to go before elections.

"Bad" decision

But now Zimbabwe's desperately cash-strapped government will have to find $180m fund the payments. That's got commentators worried.

Zimbabwe's @RangaMberi wondered: "Ministry of Finance said it will mobilise $180m for bonuses... From which miracle tree, I wonder."

Former education minister @DavidColtart said that while he sympathised with teachers' plight, the decision to pay the bonuses was ultimately a "bad" one. He tweeted: "But the question is - how? By printing worthless bond notes?" Brought in at the end of last year and of no value outside the southern African country, Zimbabwe's $2 and $5 bond notes are increasingly becoming the only money you'll get in change from local stores, flea markets and inside some banks.

Coltart wrote on Facebook: "We already know that government expenditure to the end of November last year exceeded revenue by over $1bn. These bonus payments simply add to that deficit."

'We'll cross that bridge later'

Union leaders have already expressed their concerns about bond note payments but are willing to take a chance, according to Raymond Majongwe, the outspoken head of the Progressive Teachers' Union of Zimbabwe. Asked what value the likely-depreciating bond notes might have when the last bonus payments are made in August, Majongwe tweeted. "We will cross the bridge when we get there."

No worries

That may be exactly what Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa wants to hear.

"That is our problem. Don't worry," he told the official Herald. "We will certainly mobilise the resources."

Zimbabwe's teachers may well be celebrating now: after all, they certainly didn't want the housing stands the authorities tried to palm off on them:

But could this be the bad news they just don't want to hear?

Read more on:    robert mugabe  |  patrick chinamasa  |  zimbabwe  |  southern africa

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