Civil servants are currently working a two-day week – Mondays and Tuesdays – after declaring a pay impasse with the government. They are demanding the RTGS equivalent of US$540 per month for the lowest paid worker, up from the present US$199 at the official exchange rate.
Bikita East MP Johnson Madhuku (Zanu-PF) moved a motion for the provision of non-monetary benefits for all government workers including land and vehicles.
Madhuku’s motion set the stage for sometimes emotional contributions by MPs from both sides who chided finance minister Mthuli Ncube for not doing enough to improve the conditions of civil servants.
“The salaries are inadequate, especially for those in rural areas,” said Chikomba MP Joseph Chinotimba (Zanu-PF).
“The current exchange rate is US$1 to 130 RTGS, that’s the rate that is being used by most shops… We expect immediate action to be taken on the matter, even if it means minister Mthuli Ncube be called into the House to answer questions and to address the matter.
“At one time, the minister said that the government has a surplus. How can you talk of surplus when the standard of living for the majority has not improved and they are earning peanuts?”
Zanu-PF’s Makoni North MP James said salaries being paid to teachers, nurses and doctors were “unfair”.
“Salaries for civil servants are very low, far much lower than is expected, hence we get very little work being done which equates to the salaries that they get,” Munetsi argued.
“Discussions about civil servants’ salaries have been made; they were done several times before but to no avail. I think it’s high time now that the government sits down and seriously think about civil servants’ salaries.
“I look at the type of work that’s done by teachers, nurses and doctors; they are all life savers. If you look at the nature of work that these people do and if you equate the salary of a teacher to the type of work that they do, you’ll discover that we’re not doing any good service to them.
“If you look at nurses and doctors, they save lives. Go to any hospital, clinic and anywhere, people come there to have their lives saved. That’s not easy, and then we just look aside and not give a good salary to such types of people; it’s unfair.”
Thokozani Khupe (MDC-T) said while she supported paying civil servants non-monetary incentives, these should not be a substitute for good salaries.
“An incentive is something which is given to somebody in order for that person to be motivated or to be encouraged so that they do more. The sad reality right now is that our civil servants don’t have anything. Their salaries are paltry. They cannot do anything meaningful with their salaries,” Khupe said.
MDC Alliance MP for Luveve Stella Ndlovu said most civil servants were leading “miserable lives”, with a large majority of them unable to afford basic medical care.
“It’s very difficult for civil servants to adapt to the current economic environment. Their plight is quite deplorable. What they need are adequate salaries which will meet their needs,” Ndlovu said.
Edwin Mushoriwa of the MDC Alliance said not all civil servants want land, but all want decent salaries.
Said Mushoriwa: “When we grew up, working for the government was a noble thing… Right now, if you want to know that this one is a civil servant or not, just look at the clothing that they put on, the schools that their kids attend and also the lunch that they eat.
“Our civil servants deserve to get paid adequate money. We now have workers who’re earning less than US$200. How can we have a civil servant working for that little money?
“For us to argue to say that non-monetary incentives should be given in lieu of adequate salaries, for me it’s not good enough. It’s not good enough because civil servants are not homogenous. They’re individuals with different taste, goals and ambitions. If you give civil servants, for instance, land to farm, others don’t want to farm but want to farm in OK supermarket.
“The best thing that we can do as parliament is to make sure that civil servants are paid at least at the same level that they were before the introduction of the RTGS or before the introduction of the Statutory Instrument that wiped out their salaries.”
Zanu-PF MP Goodluck Kwaramba (Proportional Representation) said the government should stop issuing “no work, no pay” threats to civil servants and address their plight.
“Yesterday, I met one teacher when I was coming here to Harare who was saying they’re being paid RTGS$22,000 and when that money is changed to U.S. dollars it’s equivalent to US$120,” Kwaramba said.
“I want to say, when teachers complain that they are incapacitated, I feel we should listen to them and answer their plight instead of coming up with some policies which punish them. It’s us parents who’re going to suffer because those teachers are not going to teach. What sort of a generation are we going to produce? I think we’re killing the education system if we continue denying teachers what they need.”