via Govt risks army unrest over pay delay 23/03/2014 NewZimbabwe
MORALE is reportedly at its lowest among the country’s security services after the cash-strapped government postponed their pay date.
The last time Zimbabwe faced the threat of unrest from the normally patient and disciplined security services was at the height of the country’s economic crisis in 2008 when soldiers rioted in Harare after becoming frustrated with queuing to withdraw cash from banks.
The government admits it is facing serious financial constraints with the country’s economy showing no sign of any positive impetus from President Robert Mugabe and his Zanu PF party’s emphatic victory in last July’s polls.
The textile, farming, mining, construction, printing and retail sectors have been hit hard by company closures and downsizings, which caused by, among other things, poor power supplies, dwindling markets, and lack of capital to invest in new technologies and machinery.
The company closures have hit the government’s tax revenues, at a time little meaningful support is coming through from international development partners.
While campaigning for re-election last year, Mugabe vowed to double the salaries of State workers, a promise his Zanu PF government has failed to meet so far.
And, as the cash constraints appear to worsen, government last week changed pay dates for civil servants from the 21st of March to the 27th, citing inadequate finances.
The development appears to have riled rank and file members of the security forces with some threatening to stage protests in what could represent a threat to the country’s peace and stability.
Disquiet has been reported at the army’s KGVI base in the capital, the ZRP head offices at Morris Depot as well as in the prison services.
Security services officers, who are not allowed to go on strike, told NewZimbabwe.com that they would defy the laws if government fails to give them their money.
“It has never happened in the history of Zimbabwe that pay dates of the security services are moved; this signals a disaster,” a senior police officer stationed at Morris depot told NewZimbabwe.com at the weekend.
“If this continues we have no option but to go on demonstrations; it’s that simple. We will also not arrest anyone who organises protests against the pay delays.”
A prison officer stationed at Harare Remand prison added: “They (government) wanted to get into power using us and then dumped us after they had maintained their positions.
“They promised us a salary increment and now they are backtracking not only from their promises but even from giving us the meagre salaries which we have always been paid.”
An army officer stationed at KGVI also moaned: “Last month they told us that they were going to fulfil their 2013 election campaign promises of looking into our conditions of service.
“They went further to give us some pay-slips with salary increments, only to tell us that we were going to get the money after April. They think we are fools.”
Government negotiators agreed a new pay deal with civil service unions which would be implemented in April, according to Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa
The minister was however cagey when recently challenged by opposition legislators who demanded to know whether the government would honour its pledge on salaries.
“We are not yet in April,” Chinamasa said.
President Mugabe however warned his minister to keep his word.
“I was talking to (Public Service Commission chairman) Mariyawanda Nzuwah who is close to Chinamasa and he assured me that we would be paid. Even the President is also a worker – 1st of April don’t fool us.”
Mugabe blamed the government’s cash woes on economic sanctions imposed by the West.
“We are currently going through a difficult patch as a result of the sanctions that were imposed on us,” he said.
“It is, however, just a technical delay in the mobilisation of the monies, but the promise will be honoured. It is our wish, as Government, to have all our workers adequately compensated for their hard work.”