Government fails to pay pensioners


Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa

THE cash-strapped government was this week running around to raise funds to pay its pensioners their statutory monthly payouts, which coincided with salaries and overdue bonus payments to the armed forces.
As of yesterday, pensioners, most of whom get a maximum monthly payout of US$60, were yet to be paid, way beyond the promised payment date of December 9.
Over the past months, government has been pushing the pay date for pensioners back and it has since reached a point where the delayed payments are now interfering with fresh salary dates.
Liberation war veterans were only paid on Friday last week, in a move that appeared to stop them from raising the matter with President Robert Mugabe when he was due to officially open the ZANU-PF annual conference that took place in Victoria Falls.
After war veterans had been paid their monthly pensions, riot police had to be called to disperse an angry crowd of ordinary pensioners that gathered for a demonstration at Mukwati Building in Harare.
Since then, most of the pensioners — most of whom travel from remote areas of the country — have been sleeping in queues at banks, in the hope that the money would be deposited into their accounts.
“Imagine, my 73-year-old mother had travelled from Kazangarare (in Hurungwe) to Karoi with only her bus fare to Karoi.
“Had I not sent her money to return home, she would be sleeping at the bank like others for more than a week,” one former civil servant, who is also on government pension told the Financial Gazette this week.
Members of the armed forces were paid their December salaries on Tuesday, minus the bonus that was due on November 15, without a word on when the tens of thousands of government pensioners would be paid.
Government still has to pay teachers — who constitute the bulk of public service workers — as well as nurses and other members of the civil service.
The situation could be worse in January as most firms that pay taxes to the government are closing this week for the Christmas and New Year’s holidays and most of them only open in mid-January when salaries for members of the armed forces are due.
In a development that exposed lack of co-ordination within government, in April this year Finance Minister, Patrick Chinamasa, announced a two-year suspension on annual bonuses for all government workers, saying the State could not afford the payments, but he was immediately overruled by President Mugabe, who assured the civil servants that they would get their bonuses as usual.
It is this bonus that is proving elusive.
Some of the government workers were only paid their 2014 bonuses as late as August this year.
Most firms are sending their workers for the holidays without any pay, including those that have been owing their staff for several months.

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