Finance and Economic Development Minister, Professor Mthuli Ncube, believes the government has done a lot for civil servants, as he said the lowest paid workers were earning US$205 – about 60 percent of the given standard of living in the country.
Prof Ncube said this while responding to questions from journalists in Bulawayo over the weekend on challenges faced by civil servants who had just commemorated a gloomy International Worker’s Day, whose wages have depreciated over time.
But the finance minister insists that since 2018, conditions and salaries of civil servants have improved.
“Since we introduced the domestic currency, just think about how much a teacher or lowest paid civil servant used to earn in the beginning of 2019, it was quite low. Right now, after this recent 25 percent increase across the board, which is, in fact, as of April 30, the lowest paid person is just over ZWL$16 000 a month, which is about 60 percent of the Poverty Datum Line, an equivalent of about US$205 per month,” he said.
“So we’ve done a lot over the last two and a half years in pushing up the salaries of civil servants in general.”
Prof Ncube cited that the Covid-19 risk allowance, introduced for civil servants had uplifted their working conditions.
“The Covid-19 risk allowance for teachers was introduced in the last quarter of last year, for the health sector it was introduced in the second quarter. So we’ve done a lot in terms of uplifting civil servants. Suddenly, when you look at what the lowest paid worker was on, in January 2019, compared to now, it has been a sea change,” said the finance minister.
“As government we are committed to improving the lives and livelihoods of civil servants. There was a time, prior 2018 when civil servants even didn’t know when their salaries would paid. But now we publish the date, and we pay on time. They didn’t even know if they were going to get a bonus, their 13th check. Now, it is paid religiously, every November and December. So really, we’ve done a lot.”
He added the government had also introduced the Government Employee Mutual Savings (GEMS) Fund, which allowed workers to borrow short term and pay through their salaries every month.
“This means they pay a lower interest rate, than they face from loan. So, we are trying very hard to support civil servants. We’re really working hard to improve the plight of our civil servants, though, they should never feel neglected. They work very hard and do very good work,” Prof Ncube said.
The finance minister also refuted claims that inflation continued going up but was decreasing, which meant prices would stabilise and strengthen the Zimbabwean dollar value.
“It’s not true to say we have done nothing, and it’s also not true that inflation continues to be an issue. Actually inflation is coming down. So as inflation comes down, and as we continue as government to push wages up, which we will, you will find that the plight of the civil servants will get better and better,” Prof Ncube said.
Prof Ncube claimed that some government workers were better paid that those in the private sector.
“I’m aware that some members of the private sector, have actually even been left behind by government in terms of their salary adjustments. But then through the Tripartite Negotiating Forum structure. We’ve been having conversations with them to catch up with government as employers, so that we can improve the plight of all our workers right across the economy,” said the finance minister.
“So it’s not true that we’ve done nothing. We’ve done a lot.”
He also expressed concern over those civil servants who were fleeced by loan sharks and urged them to join the government’s saving scheme.
“That’s really my concern. It is the president’s concern and the government’s concern. That’s why we set up this savings loan scheme through the Salary Service Bureau working with Treasury, it’s new, it’s been running literally for about six months, eight months is new. And I want to say to civil servants, please join the scheme, it’s voluntary. But it will save you a lot in terms of the interest you’re paying to loan sharks,” Prof Ncube said.
“I think some of them are not aware, maybe we’ve not publicised it enough, we should do more of that. So they get away from these loan sharks, who are ripping them off.”