Mugabe is wrong this time


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The dictionary describes a bonus as “a sum of money added to a person's wages as a reward for good performance”.

President Robert Mugabe says in the case of civil servants, the bonus is a benefit. “The rules are that when government bestows a benefit on civil servants, that benefit cannot be withdrawn because it has become a right.”

Indeed, civil servants might be entitled to their bonuses as a right, but as a nation, the dictionary meaning must come first.

A bonus, though a right, must be a reward for good performance. In that regard, most civil servants do not deserve a bonus. It should not be a human right, but a reward for good work. Those who are doing well must be rewarded and those who are not must not be paid any bonus.

Right now the government is struggling to pay wages to a bloated civil service whose strength no one seems to know.  Civil servants’ salaries are gobbling more than 90 percent of the government expenditure leaving almost nothing to move the country forward.

The reason why Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa wanted to scrap the bonuses was simply that the government does not have money. Period! Mugabe should know this.

Zimbabwe must move away from the “dai hurumende” syndrome of pretending that it has money when it does not have any. Mugabe would be very right if we had an operational civil service. Right now, we are supporting too much dead wood.

The government must audit the civil service before talking of any bonus. First it is essential to establish the size of the civil service and what each one is doing. At one time reports said there were 75 000 ghost workers. What happened to them?

An audit carried out by Ernest and Young of India pointed out several glaring anomalies. The report was never made public but sections that were leaked were frightening. Shouldn’t the first step be to clean up the civil service?

Once the civil service has been cleaned up, government employees must be made to work. There are too many stories of the “jacket” doing government work while the person is doing something else personal.

Right now, some civil servants, especially top officials, are not only corrupt but they are devoting more time to their own businesses than to government work.

Civil servants in the service sectors such as those who issue birth and death certificates, and national registration cards, the police and those who work for the revenue authority, are so corrupt that it is an insult to an ordinary Zimbabwean to say these people deserve a bonus because they are milking the public everyday and earn, from corruption, much more than the government pays them.

 One does not need to be an auditor or investigator to see the corruption in the police or the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority. Just look at the cars junior police or revenue authority employees are driving. Yes, they might be reconditioned imports, but even then, most people would not be able to buy those cars from their salaries.

Benefits for civil servants were really aimed at rewarding an honest civil service. When I was growing up, I was made to understand that civil servants had to be career government workers. They could not own businesses while still in government employment. Yes, these people deserved their bonuses because they had no other source of income apart from their salaries.

Now civil servants own farms, supermarkets and even companies. How do they run these operations? On whose time? And can one rightly say a bonus is their right when they are already stealing time from the government?  Stealing time from the taxpayer who has to bribe his way to get service?

President Mugabe must be realistic. He must know that the people he praised are not doing their job. Even his deputy, Emmerson Mnangagwa has repeatedly stated, in the five months that he has been in office, that things must change though his statement “masamba asiyana”. 

One way of showing that “masamba asiyana” should be to get rid of dead wood, to get rid of corrupt civil servants, and to make sure that civil servants are doing their work. Only then can they have their bonus. 

(646 VIEWS)

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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.

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