10 December 2012

Zimbabwe: Civil Servants Mull Boycott

CIVIL servants have threatened not to participate in the constitutional referendum and elections as polling officers if Government fails to increase their salaries "reasonably" before the two national events take place next year.

Zimbabwe expects to hold a referendum in January followed by general elections in March.

Civil servants form the bulk of the workers engaged by Government to facilitate such events.

They said they would soon petition political parties in the inclusive Government over the issue arguing the greatest opportunity for them to get improved salaries and working conditions was before elections as every party would be gunning for support.

Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe secretary-general Mr Raymond Majongwe said it was "pointless" for civil servants to participate in the national events when they were being exploited.

"They want to use us in processes that benefit them while we continue to wallow in poverty.

"They draw labour from us, but this time when election time comes, civil servants will not participate until we get an increment. Above all, the money for the elections is not guaranteed as we might end up being used like what happened during the census programme."

Government is yet to pay civil servants who participated in the 2012 national census in August.

Mr Majongwe said they would use elections to extract a salary increment.

Members of Parliament do not pass the budget unless Finance Minister Tendai Biti gives them allowances, he said.

"We are taking a leaf from that because if we fail to get an increment between now and March, then it means waiting for another five years. We become a neglected group once election victories have been declared."

College Lecturers Association of Zimbabwe president Mr David Dzatsunga said it would be difficult for Government to engage civil servants for the referendum and elections.

"For the meantime, we expect Minister Biti to unpack his budget before January to prove that there is an increment for civil servants," he said.

"In the event that there is no meaningful increment, there would be no point in participating in the events (referendum and elections). We know that anyone who needs our vote in the election will push that we get increments be it Zanu-PF, MDC-T or MDC."

In his 2013 National Budget, Minister Biti said civil servants would get an inflation-linked salary increase beginning January.

Civil servants have already indicated that indexing salaries to inflation would result in an insignificant increment.

Zimta chief executive Mr Sifiso Ndlovu said they would interrogate the manifestos of every political party to see what they have in store for the civil service.

"We are going to look at what they will offer us through their manifestos and the party with enticing policies would carry the day.

"In the past, Government would meet with workers end of December for deliberations but no such negotiations have been done. Union leaders should unite and fight from one angle."

Teachers' Union of Zimbabwe chief executive Mr Manuel Nyawo said elections would eliminate politicians who had promised them hefty salary increments without fulfilling their promises.

"When they came into power, they came with a lot of promises but nothing has been done to date," he said.

"You will see most politicians coming back to us at this time but we are going to resist before the events take place so that they give a salary increment first before we talk of anything else."

This year, and for the first time since independence, civil servants did not get a salary increment with Government nominally increasing their transport and housing allowances.

The lowest Government employee gets US$296 per month, far below the poverty datum line that is over US$600.

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