Matuke told NewsDay yesterday that the biggest threat to the country was the currency crisis, especially ahead of next year’s elections.
Matuke’s comments came in the wake of growing rifts between government and its employees, as well as growing discontent among citizens.
“It’s not the government that’s fuelling the black market, but the enemy. It’s being fuelled by people with the intention to make sure that they destroy our currency. That’s the issue because even if you increase salaries today, it’s like a goat chasing its tail, and it will not change anything,” said Matuke, who is also Public Service deputy minister.
“You can’t say I want $4 000 from US$10, why? It’s just a mindset and there are no tangible economic reasons for the rate to go up. If we agree that a stone is money, and we respect it, then it will have value. Who is making these rates go up? Who suffers? It’s all of us that will suffer and we end up blaming the government,” he said.
Matuke said the exchange rate crisis had made it difficult for employers to pay workers decent wages.
“You can give a person $1 million today, but if the rate goes up in two weeks then what do you do? It has nothing to do with economics; it’s just somebody who decides to increase rates in the comfort of their home.”
Asked to proffer possible solutions to the crisis, Matuke said there was need for continuous engagement with trade unions and other stakeholders under the Tripartite Negotiating Forum.
He said government’s capacity to increase wages depended on the country’s economic performance and budgetary demands such as social spending.
“As government, we look at the size of our cake and see whether we can opt for salaries at the expense of all development. It is our economy which determines what should be paid. You get civil servants getting an increment today, and then the next day supermarkets increase prices. What’s the relationship? How do you explain that to a teacher who gets a pay rise today, then the next day a supermarket increases prices four times?” he said, adding that these price increases were the work of economic saboteurs.