HARARE - Brawling post-congress Zanu PF bigwigs have opened another battlefront in their party’s seemingly unstoppable factional and succession wars, this time exchanging deadly barbs over the government’s unfulfilled bonus promises to restless civil servants.
At the same time, the continued inability by the broke State to pay its employees their promised 13th cheques for last year is raising fresh tensions, with disaffected public sector doctors, nurses and teachers threatening to embark on debilitating mass actions over the issue.
Well-placed Zanu PF sources told the Daily News yesterday that the thorny bonus issue had become a “poison-laced game of poker” in President Robert Mugabe’s ruling party, with many bigwigs taking positions over the matter that merely advanced their faction’s interests.
“The war has now moved to bonuses and it’s literally a free-for-all at the moment. The sad thing is that many of those diving in to throw punches are only interested in their factional interests and not the civil servants or the welfare of the country.
“The fact is that there are two irreconcilable issues at play here. The first is that the economy is in serious distress and the government is broke, which means that it cannot afford the bonuses.
“The second is that the president did promise civil servants their 13th cheques, which means that the money must be found somehow. So, something has to give — hence the current poison-laced game of poker among the various party factions over the issue,” an insider said.
Zanu PF spokesperson Simon Khaya Moyo deftly kicked the sensitive issue for touch when approached for comment yesterday, referring the Daily News to the government, which he said was best-placed to offer insights into the matter.
“We cannot comment on the matter, since the minister (Public Service minister Prisca Mupfumira) has already made statements on that,” Khaya Moyo said.
A forthright Mupfumira said on Tuesday that the issue of bonuses for civil servants was not a priority at the moment for the cash-strapped government, which is battling to raise funds to feed millions of citizens facing starvation.
She also said that she was not sure when the money for bonuses was going to be made available by the fiscus — although she reiterated the government’s commitment to fulfil Mugabe’s promise.
“It is a matter of priorities my son, people are starving out there and government has no money. So, the priority at the moment is to feed the people.
“I urge civil servants to be patient because like we said, we are committed to paying (them their bonuses) because the president said we must and now it’s a matter of when not if.
“We do not have a date yet because of the other things we are grappling with, but treasury is looking for the money and once it is there, they will be paid. We all need bonus, don’t we?” Mupfumira said.
To underscore the boiling factional war over the bonus issue, an outspoken Zanu PF activist aligned to embattled Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s faction, Energy Mutodi, has savaged politburo member Jonathan Moyo over the matter.
He said contrary to recent suggestions by the Higher Education minister that 13th cheques should not be a right, the government should pay the outstanding bonuses as soon as possible.
“The statement by Higher Education minister Jonathan Moyo in which he said that bonus was not a right for government workers and that some civil servants did not deserve it because they are ‘drunkards and non-performers’ is unfortunate and should not have been said by a Zanu PF minister and a politburo member,” Mutodi posted on his Facebook page.
And twisting his factional knife in, he claimed that ever since Moyo had made the remarks, there had allegedly been disquiet among civil servants who felt let down by the government.
“The statement by the honourable minister has given a wrong impression that government has a callous unconcern (sic) for the civil servants who have for a long time endured economic hardships emanating from economic mismanagement and poor policies by government among other factors such as sanctions.
“The failure to pay bonuses is just one symptom of failure on the part of government and if professor Moyo was an alert and hardworking minister, he should have argued for the reversal of the destructive policies that continue to harm the economy such as the indigenisation policy that is scaring away investors,” Mutodi charged.
In the meantime, spokesperson for the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association, Francis Rwodzi, told the Daily News yesterday that since the government was reneging on its bonus promises, it should brace for strikes in February.
“We embarked on a strike and after we were paid our December salaries we made a statement that we will not be able to render our services if our bonuses were not paid and we will down tools in February,” Rwodzi said.
At the same time, the decision by the government to order all teachers on leave to immediately return to work has angered teachers unions who say the directive is illegal and that they will challenge it in court.
According to a circular that has been delivered to all schools around the country, the Public Service Commission intends to visit schools to ensure that teachers comply with the order.
Zimta Chief executive officer Sifiso Ndlovu has said the directive is a violation of leave conditions for teachers, adding that his union will approach the courts to seek redress.
He also said that the circular had come at a time when teachers were worried about whether they would get their promised bonuses.