Teachers have reacted angrily to Finance minister Mthuli Ncube’s 2019 national budget, saying it will drive them into deeper poverty as they repeated their demands to be paid in foreign currency.
By Nokuthaba Dlamini
Ncube last Thursday backed his earlier austerity measures with proposed cuts in government expenditure as well as setting import duty for vehicles and other imported goods in foreign currency when he presented the $8,2 billion budget.
The Zimbabwe Teachers’ Association (Zimta) immediately raised a red flag over the austerity measures describing the fiscal plan for next year as “anti-worker, anti-people and anti-poor”.
Tapson Nganunu Sibanda, the Zimta secretary-general, said teachers were expecting Ncube to raise their salaries and pay them in foreign currency
“We feel that the recent budget statement has nothing for us as teachers. Nothing for us is not for us,” he said.
“We, therefore, warn the government that such a neo-liberal approach to solving the economic crisis, the severe austerity measures on the already suffering citizenry will lead to dire consequences.”
Sibanda said the budget, whose theme is “austerity for prosperity”, would “bring more misery than joy to an already impoverished worker in general and an already incapacitated teacher in particular”.
He said teachers had been living under severe austerity measures since the 1990s when the government introduced the Economic Structural Adjustment Programme.
“There is nothing, therefore, to celebrate in this budget statement for teachers. The budget leads the country to a new trajectory of a neo-liberal economy,” he said,
Sibanda said teachers’ salaries had been devalued by over 300% since September after the value of the bond note and real-time gross settlement (RTGS) balances fell dramatically against the United States dollar.
“Teachers are now demanding payment of their salaries in foreign currency, so as to maintain the stability of their income that is being eroded day in day out,” he said.
“Teachers and other civil servants’ salaries are in RTGS, yet the budget statement proposes payment of customs duty in US dollars, what a contradiction.
“Teachers and the rest of the civil servants can only convert their RTGS amounts to US dollars through the black market, an illegal exercise that attracts a jail term of 10 years.
“If these conditions of customs duty are meant for a certain section of the populace, who are neither teachers nor civil servants, it is this dualism that is of concern to us teachers.”
Sibanda said Ncube had effectively reduced civil servants’ bonuses by computing them as a sum of the basic salary, excluding housing and transport allowances.
“This in essence means that this year’s festive season and beyond will be a nightmare for the already incapacitated teacher,” he said.
Ncube said the austerity measures were meant to reduce the government deficit and revive the economy.