Sunday, March 05, 2017

Zimbabwe Civil Servants Say No to Demonstrations
Kuda Bwititi and Debra Matabvu

Civil servants have snubbed opposition elements who tried to hijack their planned strike tomorrow, and will instead engage Government over their 2016 annual bonuses at a decisive meeting involving top State officials, The Sunday Mail has established.

The crushing blow to the National Vendors’ Association of Zimbabwe and #Tajamuka, who have been trying to piggy-back on the strike to launch street demonstrations, followed the European Union’s release of US$5 million to civil society groups to “strengthen democratic participation”.

Mrs Cecilia Alexander, head of the Apex Council – an umbrella body comprising all civil servants’ unions – told this newspaper they were aware of the plot to unleash violence, and resolved to avert this by sticking to negotiations with Government.

She, however, indicated that her constituency would embark on sit-ins pending the outcome of tomorrow’s meeting with Cabinet ministers Patrick Chinamasa (Finance), Prisca Mupfumira (Public Service and Labour) and Saviour Kasukuwere (Local Government, Public Works and National Housing).

Minister Mupfumira said Government was committed to the talks.

“I can confirm that Monday’s meeting with civil servants is on. I do not want to say much at the moment because that may affect the negotiations, but we are hoping to come up with a decisive position after the meeting, and forge ahead from the meeting that we had last time,” she said.

Mrs Alexander said the Apex Council had advised its members that mass protests were out of the question.

She told The Sunday Mail: “We met (last Friday) and decided to take alternative action and not to strike. Initially, when we planned the strike, we had considered demonstrations, but we will not be having any demonstrations in the streets because such action will involve other people who have ulterior motives.”

Human resources expert Mr Memory Nguwi urged civil servants to negotiate with an appreciation of Government’s financial constraints.

“The key issue I would like the civil servants to consider is to look at the financial cashflows being experienced by the Government,” he said. “Sometimes it is better to compromise and take what is there because the opportunity might pass and never present itself again.”

Government and civil servants have been discussing annual bonus payment since 2016 after authorities indicated willingness to pay a 13th cheque.

The State has said it is exploring alternatives such as residential stands on account of a high wage bill that gobbles 80 percent of revenue.

Many civil servants are reportedly willing to take up the residential stands offer, though some union leaders have been making statements to the contrary even as they live well in low-density suburbs as exposed by our sister paper The Herald last week.

Some union leaders have been accused of insincerity as they are landlords/landladies while they deny their tenant constituents an opportunity to won residential stands.

On January 25, 2017, Government gave its employees three options: residential stands, a cash stipend coupled with non-monetary benefits, or property investment bonds.

The Apex Council said it would consult its members and deliberate on the matter at another meeting with Government.

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