Bonus season, stressful times

HARARE - With only 11 weeks until Christmas the question on everyone’s mind is whether or not they will get a 13th pay cheque this year.

The bonus which doesn’t have anything to do with individual performance or company viability anymore but is nevertheless expected, even demanded, has become the national annual nightmare.

It brings stressful times for everyone — both givers and the receivers.

Why is it that suddenly everyone is expected to give a Christmas bonus?

From families who employ someone to help in their home or garden; to small companies with a dozen on their payroll; big companies with a 100 on their workforce; to the government with a couple of 100 000 people on the national payroll.

Where will we get the money to pay Christmas bonuses?

For government employees, the national assumption is that the revenue for Christmas bonuses will come from diamond sales but it seems yet again this is just not going to happen.

Watching the opening of the brand new Defence College built by the Chinese at a cost of $98 million, we couldn’t help but wonder how on earth Zimbabwe would repay this enormous loan.

The answer came a couple of days later with the news that the US$98 million loan is to be repaid to China over 13 years in the form of the diamonds being mined by Chinese companies in the Marange diamond fields.

Even harder to swallow is the fact that the Chinese-built Defence College won’t benefit ordinary Zimbabweans as it is reserved for senior military and security personnel with the rank of colonel, group captain and above.

News of the Chinese loan repayment scheme came just a fortnight after we learnt that — of the $456 million diamonds sold by August this year, the national Treasury had only received $41 million from the proceeds, a very meagre nine percent.

Zimbabwe’s diamond fields are said to be the largest in the world and yet their revenue to the national purse continues to be a case of illusion, smoke screens and mirrors.

While the news of Chinese loans being paid back in diamonds is hard to swallow at home, the same can’t be said about recent events in Sri Lanka.

It was impossible not to follow the story of the Chinese man who swallowed a diamond worth $13 000 recently.

Attending an annual gem stone exhibition in Colombo, Sri Lanka, two Chinese men approached diamond owner, Suresh de Silva and asked to inspect some diamonds more closely.

When de Silva saw one of the men brush his hand over his face he became suspicious that the stone had been swallowed and immediately alerted nearby police.

“When I shouted, one ran away and we managed to catch the man who swallowed the stone,” de Silva said, but that wasn’t the end of the story.

The 32-year-old Chinese man was immediately arrested and taken to hospital where an X-ray showed the 1,5 carat diamond was indeed lodged in his stomach.

Constantly monitored by armed guards it was then just a question of waiting for laxatives to work until the diamond could be retrieved.

Sure enough the diamond was expelled and it was only then that it was discovered the stone was a fake.

A Sri Lankan police spokesperson said: “The man with the real stone vanished while all the attention was on the man who was seen swallowing a stone that turned out to be fake.”

So while everyone counts the days to Christmas bonus time, we can’t help but wonder how many diamonds are leaving Zimbabwe inside people’s stomachs. - Cathy Buckle

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