Fresh GNU war
HARARE – Zimbabwe’s shaky inclusive government is headed for another major showdown over civil servants’ salaries following revelations that Cabinet was not consulted over the paltry $31 awarded to workers recently.
Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Finance Minister Tendai Biti on one side and President Robert Mugabe are due for confrontation as information emerges that the salary increments purportedly awarded to the civil servants might not even exist.
This comes as Zanu PF’s fierce resistance to the issue of ghost workers has resulted in a fresh audit being conducted at the Ministry of Public Service.
Speaking to the Daily News yesterday, Public Service Minister Eliphas Mukonoweshuro like his boss Tsvangirai, said he was shocked to read in newspapers that there had been a salary increment.
Mukonoweshuro and Tsvangirai’s statements expose the major differences in the inclusive government with Mugabe’s people insisting that the new salaries have already been effected.
“The issue of increments was not discussed in Cabinet; there can only be a salary increment if it is approved by Cabinet. I know that Minister Biti has been saying he has no money, so I do not know where these increments will come from,’’ said Mukonoweshuro.
Speaking to Radio VOP in a separate interview, Mukonoweshuro said the announcement last Friday by the Joint Negotiating Council (JNC) that salaries for the lowest paid workers would rise to $253 was “baseless, irresponsible and intended to cause friction among parties in the inclusive government.”
Mukonoweshuro said the JNC had no authority to make such announcements, which he said are his responsibility as public service minister.
“As far as I am concerned negotiations are still underway and I am yet to receive details of the proceedings of the last Apex Council meeting held in Harare last week,” Mukonoweshuro told Radio VOP.
The issue of civil servants salaries caused a storm in January when Mugabe, in what appeared to be politicking, promised “huge” pay increases to workers claiming that the money would come from diamond sales.
But it later emerged no such funds had been promised with Finance Minister Biti and Tsvangirai saying Treasury had never received the money.
Tsvangirai later told the Daily News that meaningful salary increments would only be awarded once government managed to flush out about 75 000 “ghost” workers, who are allegedly on the government payroll but working to prop up Zanu PF.
Last week Tsvangirai attacked the new salary increments saying they were a joke since they were well below the poverty line.
The issue of the civil servants salary has become a major political battlefield for the MDC and Zanu PF with war veterans besieging Biti’s office demanding his resignation if he failed to award increments to civil servants.
The MDC feels that Mugabe is using the issue of civil servants salaries to campaign for his party arguing that the whole government is aware that treasury has no money to make any further increases.
The International Monetary Fund has also weighed into the debate and has advised government not to award civil servants any increases saying they cannot sustain it.
But Zanu PF argues that the IMF should not come to Zimbabwe to tell them how to run their government saying such moves were tantamount to interfering in the internal affairs of the country.
When the “salary increments” were announced last week, the militant Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) described the rise as an insult. PTUZ secretary general Raymond Majongwe said he would mobilise his teachers to go on strike demanding “real” increases.
However, Tendai Chikowore of the Apex Council insisted that the increases were better than nothing and attacked Majongwe for turning labour disputes into political issues.
On the issue of ghost workers, Mukonoweshuro said government has started a fresh audit to verify the actual numbers of workers employed by the Public Service Commission in order to flush out the ghost workers.
Mukonoweshuro revealed that his ministry is undertaking a new civil exercise to verify the pilot audit carried out last year by international auditing and accounting firm Ernest & Young from India.
“’We are doing another audit verification exercise of the civil servants. It will give us the true figures of the workers and we are reacting to what was published by the audit carried out last year. Cabinet asked me to verify everything before we can debate it,” said Mukonoweshuro.
He said an inter-ministerial committee had been set up to look at the authenticity of the audit report and it comprises of the ministries of health, education and public service amongst others.
“Some of my cabinet colleagues are not accepting the audit done so as way of responding to their objection we have to carry out our own audit and verify everything. You must know that this is a very sensitive issue and must be handled carefully and be dealt properly before we can start flushing out the ghost workers,’’ said Mukonoweshuro.
“I don’t want to speculate on anything about the figures of the ghost workers but I want them flushed out so that we can remain with genuine civil servants who can earn decent wages. We want to clean up the public service so that we can have a decent and effective salary wage bill,’’ said Mukonoweshuro.
The audit report carried out by the Energy & Young unearthed lots of ghost workers that are employed by the Public Service Commission and are on their payroll.
The majority of ghost workers are reported to be youths that were employed by Zanu PF during the 2008 elections.
Mukonoweshuro said he was not ready to comment about the members of the national youth service who are on the payroll.
“They do not work under my ministry but under Minister Kasukuwere’s portfolio so I do not know how many they and what they are doing,’’ he said.
He said his ministry employs 288 000 workers minus the uniformed forces who do not fall under his portfolio.
He said the issue of the ghosts workers had to be dealt with in a transparent manner as it was bringing the whole civil service into disarray.
“If we are going to be flushing them out it means we are going to flush one-fifth of the civil servants, and it needs to be done in phases. We need to identify our true civil servants from bogus ones.’’
He said his MDC was also very keen on seeing reform among the civil servants to remunerate the bonafide workers.
“We are happy that we have been talking about the need for reform in the civil servants as we are also talking about the security reforms. These are matters that take time to be implemented but I know that we shall be able to achieve it,’’ said Mukonoweshuro.
Genuine civil servants are demanding that ghost workers be removed on the payroll so that they can get decent wages.
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