HARARE - Although President Robert Mugabe yesterday revealed that he earns a substantial $12 000 a month — making him one of the top earners in Zimbabwe — the nonagenarian still feels that the amount is a pittance and far less than what other heads of states earn.
The revelation will come as a shock to many struggling and under-paid civil servants, with most of them having to make do with about five percent of the president’s monthly salary — and well below the poverty datum line.
Mugabe’s revelation regarding his remuneration is also likely to rile union bosses, as his new salary suggests that he has awarded himself a whopping 300 percent increase over the past year — at a time that the government is struggling to meet its salary bill and asking workers across the board to forego salary increases this year.
Mugabe made his salary revelations while attempting to charm health professionals who have persevered with working in the country despite the myriad economic and professional challenges that they face, and while commissioning health equipment for hospitals that was procured under a loan facility extended by the Chinese.
He went on to urge the industry’s workers to maintain the same attitude to their work as he had displayed over the years despite facing many challenges.
“We also want to thank our side, the doctors, nurses, most of who refused to leave the country and have borne the brunt of our economic hardships the same way as we have…little salaries, just as you and me.
“You won’t believe, we pay them now perhaps $3 000 and we pay the President about $10 000, a few allowances will make it $12 000 and we were looking at the salaries of other presidents the other day but we know that is a hardship that we go through.
“We say as long as we have sadza nenyama (thick porridge and beef) and takatora nyika (we liberated this country) and we have cattle and goats so we get our meat and chickens, we say we are alright we keep alive. The good days will come and the good days are coming.
“Our performers in all sectors who certainly deserve much better treatment will get that treatment. We are aware right across teachers, doctors other civil servants and the ordinary employee in the private sector, he has a raw deal just now.
“Those are things that our economy must do and we are getting it to do that. ZimAsset is one such,” Mugabe said.
Early last year, when he was condemning parastatal bosses for receiving fat pay cheques at the expense of public service, Mugabe was quoted in the State media saying he earned $4 000 a month.
More than 75 percent of the country’s 7 million adult population is living on an average of $200 per month, according to the latest Finscope report.
Mugabe, who regularly seeks medical attention in Asia, said the equipment he was commissioning would help to discourage people from going across the country’s borders seeking medical help.
Mugabe also confirmed recently that his wife Grace had undergone a minor operation in Singapore that medical experts say could have easily been done locally.
“When our patients are treated and they realise they get now better treatment and I’m sure they will in time have that realisation, they will be less thinking of going abroad of going to South Africa for treatment.
“Other people from outside will also be invited by the fact that we are more efficient and can be demonstrated in practice,” he said.
Medical tourism has been draining the little resources the country has as the elite fly overseas for specialised procedures while the majority poor are forced to do with substandard services offered at costs beyond their reach.
Mugabe also revealed yesterday that he wished China would put economic pressure on the United States of America, which he said faced many economic challenges.
“…it’s China which sustained America. I want (to say) this loud for Obama to hear, during their economic crunches through the American bonds which they bought, trillion dollars’ worth.
“If they decided to abandon those and decided that they needed to be paid straight on, the Americans did not have money to pay. We were not happy that China let America go free. They were actually now prisoners to China and were praying that the Chinese will not demand payment,” he said.
Mugabe said his government would never bow to Europe because of its sanctions on Zimbabwe, after Zimbabweans fought a bitter war of liberation.
“We went through all that (and) we couldn’t expect at the end of all that to kneel down before a Mr Blair or Mr some Englishman to say yeah we give in, we surrender.
“Surrender our sovereignty? No. So we moved on. So we said if Americans don’t want to be friends with us, we have been friends with China for a long time. Let’s adopt the Look East Policy,” he said.