Staff at the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) saw their hopes of a merry Christmas evaporate after their employer paid them just $100.
Most of the workers at the state broadcaster have gone unpaid for seven months, with allegations of serious fraud and financial irregularities.
Last month ZBC chief executive Happison Muchechetere, who earned $40,000 a month, was sent on forced leave pending a probe into the goings-on at the failing institution. Muchechetere's salary included benefits like a servant bill of $3,500, unlimited fuel, mortgage payments, and premier air travel to anywhere in the world with his family.
Addressing the workers earlier this month in Harare, deputy information minister Supa Mandiwanzira said his ministry would pay them in view of ZBC management's failure to do so.
"I want to assure workers that the ministry is working hard to ensure that salaries are paid at least by the time we go for Christmas," Mandiwanzira said.
But on Saturday, workers were shocked to find they had been paid a "meagre" $100 which they rejected, online news source NewZimbabwe.com reported.
"We do not want the $100 as it will take us nowhere. We want the company to pay us our outstanding seven months' salaries," one worker was quoted as saying.
The workers were also disappointed that there were no provisions for funding the wage arrears bill in the recently-announced national budget, as had been promised.
The broadcaster's monthly revenue is said to be $275,000 against a budget of $2.3 million, including $1.6 million for wages and debts of up to $44 million.
Political commentator Rejoice Ngwenya said salaries of senior workers at publicly funded institutions must be pegged in relation to the individual's productivity.
"For someone working for a non-performing taxpayer-funded institution such as the ZBC to earn as much as Muchechetere is unjustifiable especially considering that other employees are not being paid," Ngwenya said.
Ngwenya slammed the ZANU PF government for pretending that they were, until last month, not aware of the scale of the rot at ZBC.
"These senior appointments are based on ZANU PF patronage rather than merit and the corruption at most of these parastatals reflects the cronyism and decay that is synonymous with the ZANU PF system of governance," Ngwenya added.
At another parastatal, The National Aids Council of Zimbabwe (NAC), workers went to their banks this month only to be told that their employer had not paid them again.
The parastatal, which administers the AIDS levy, owes some of its workers three months' salary arrears, according to the privately-owned Standard newspaper.
Affected workers said they visited their respective banks on payday, but bank staff told them that the NAC had not transferred anything into their accounts.
NAC director Madeline Dube said salaries had been paid and the "problem lies with relevant banks used by staff", she told the Standard.
Workers however say their employer is victimising them for approaching the Labour Court over another wage-related dispute.
The NAC paid its workers part wages between 2009 and 2010 on the understanding that the balance will be cleared once the economic situation in Zimbabwe improved.
However the body has since reneged on the arrangement, with Dube blaming "the liquidity crunch" for the breach of promise. Between 2009 and 2011, the NAC collected $52.7 million from taxpayers.
Political commentator and NGO worker Mkhululi Moyo told SW Radio Africa that he too had gone to his bank only to be told that his salary had not been transferred.
"These problems are in every sector, and sometimes we go for months without salaries," Moyo said.
"If I quit my job and say I will sell vegetables for example, who will buy from me when 95% of the population is unemployed? So we keep going to work hoping that one day we will get paid," Moyo added.
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