columnBy Mukachana Hanyani
THE recent awarding of a salary increment to civil servants by government has proved beyond doubt that the Zanu PF-led government has got the people at heart. It has shamed detractors and demonstrated to all and sundry that fulfilling promises is an obligation, especially for a people-oriented revolutionary party that has become a constant thorn in the flesh for Western capital.
In the last five years of the inclusive government tenure, salary increment was as taboo as following Tendai Biti, the former Finance Minister and MDC-T Secretary General, to the serenity of the toilet to witness if he conjures greenbacks. However, it has only taken Zanu PF a paltry six months to reverse civil servants' misery of the lost half-decade. Such swiftness of action is what sets Zanu PF apart from other pitiful pretenders.
The likes of Biti, Paurina Mpariwa-Gwanyanya and Lucia Matibenga seemed to trivialise the grievances of Government workers while prioritising their gallivanting. Now that Zanu PF has taken giant steps in alleviating the plight of civil servants, which is applauded by the majority of the progressive citizenry, the same purveyors of neglect attempt to revive their waning political fortunes by casting themselves as champions of the workers' rights.
That the MDC-T in general and Biti in particular should question Government's source of funds to foot the increased wage bill is quite understandable. The party and the man failed dismally during the inclusive government and would be avid students of Patrick Chinamasa on where they went wrong during that short and yet agonising brief when Biti was the country's financial steward. However, one thing is certain; that the money did not come from Biti's bowels but was mobilised for Zimbabweans in Zimbabwe by Zimbabweans!
The public is also alive to the love for high life that runs within the MDC-T, including philandering. Shonhe, the party's ex-Intelligence chief and his harem at Harvest House, Isaac Matongo who rested eternally after a romp with Evelyn Masaiti. The list is as long as one's arm and only goes to show that this coterie of people with diverse and often contradictory ideological founding have nothing in common (with workers) than pursuing self-enrichment and empire-building.
When the Zanu PF government promised civil servants that it was going to award them salaries based on the poverty datum line (PDL), the same opposition leaders rushed to dismiss the government saying that it has no capacity to pay. Some economic commentators such as Eric Bloc and John Robertson said that the PDL-linked salaries would destroy the country, as the economy is not performing well. They alleged that the current economic situation in the country could not sustain such an increment. To them, the monthly bill that currently stands at US$142million should not be increased. They saw a situation in which Zanu PF was just pontificating without any prospects of fulfillment.
Not that people have come to expect anything less, but the MDC-T has a long history of disparaging any Zanu PF-initiated programmes that seek to ameliorate the living standards of locals, such as Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation (ZIMASSET), as meaningless endeavours despite endorsement from captains of industry who have applauded the blueprint as a panacea to the country's challenges if effectively implemented. So the fact that the Zanu PF-led government has finally agreed with representatives of the civil servants to award them 26% of their basic salary is a good development worth appreciating, even by the most ardent doubting Thomases.
People still recall that during the inclusive government, Tsvangirai, then Prime Minister, was overwhelmed by a crowd at Glamis stadium and promised workers, including civil servants, what he called "a living wage" during his inaugural speech. One may assume that he was referring to a poverty datum line-based salary. Civil servants did not hold their breath in gleeful anticipation because they risked suffocation since the promise is yet to be fulfilled. Rather, the workers went about their purposeful work of fending for their families and rebuilding a country ravaged by years of unmitigated sabotage by the West.
Government has said that the 26% salary adjustment, translating to seventy-nine dollars ($79, 00), does not mark the end of negotiations. Instead, this is just the beginning of efforts to align salaries with the poverty datum line. The salaries will be reviewed periodically until the desired peg is achieved. Kudos are in order to the stakeholders, including Government and civil service unions representatives, for level-headedness in the midst of intricacies and emotions that attend to salary negotiations.
It is worth appreciating that the country's economy is not performing to the expected standards due to a plethora of reasons, chief among which is the issue of illegal sanctions. Therefore it is only prudent that any salary increments be done cautiously. For argument' sake, Robertson's assertion that employers should pay their workers productivity-based salaries as opposed to PDL-salaries as part of attempts to get the ailing firms on their feet is not a rocket scientist's discovery. Now, if Robertson agrees that the economic situation in the country is not conducive to sustain PDL-based salaries, how come he and his ilk are very quick to blame government for failing to award some civil servants the same PDL-based salaries? But then, these are armchair critics that make fortunes out of contradictions.
As such, any sane person would agree that the increment that the government awarded to civil servants is what was available and within the means of Government. It is what union representatives felt was best for the workers given the circumstances of the economy. No amount of, or attempt at ingratiation by the MDC-T and other regressive forces will separate the workers from their employer. Not even when the economy is being made to scream.
Mukachana Hanyani can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org