PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe’s Cabinet is not reading from the same script over proposals to cut the civil service wage bill after Public Service Labour and Social Welfare minister Prisca Mupfumira yesterday appeared to contradict Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa’s announcement that government is preparing to reduce its work force.
BY BLESSED MHLANGA
Chinamasa, announcing the Mid Term Fiscal Policy review on Thursday, said the government intended to cut the wage bill from 83,4% of its expenditure to 40%.
However, Mupfumira yesterday told State media that government had no plans to retrench.
“We are looking at cost cutting. There is a distinction. The process that is underway, therefore, is not to fire people, but cutting expenditure . . . No one will be fired,” she said.
Chinamasa had said he would be working with Mupfumira on the rationalisation exercise after the government completed a head count for civil servants.
“Cabinet has given a directive to the minister responsible for the Public Service, in conjunction with the minister responsible for Finance, to urgently propose remedial measures to gradually bring down the share of the wage bill in the budget from over 83% to under 40%,” he said.
“Significant progress over the exercise to develop measures to rationalise the wage bill has been made, with the Public Service Commission having also completed the physical head count for all civil servants as part of the staff audit.
“Cabinet will be considering the full package of necessary proposals in the next couple of weeks.”
The main opposition MDC-T yesterday described the policy discord in government as indicative of “a chronic paralysis of policy inconsistencies and a serious lack of planning”.
Early this year, Chinamasa courted Mugabe’s ire when he proposed a raft of measures, which included scrapping civil servants’ bonuses.
Mugabe later reversed the decision and publicly chastised Chinamasa, accusing him of rushing to announce the move without seeking Cabinet approval.
MDC-T spokesperson Obert Gutu said the policy inconsistencies among Zanu PF ministers indicated lack of co-ordination.
“The fact that one minister indicates right and less than a week, another minister from the same government, same party and who seat in the same Cabinet indicates left on the same policy shows that Zanu PF is failing to plan and they are planning to fail,” Gutu said.
He said the bloated civil service which Chinamasa now wanted culled was created by the ruling party.
“It is their skunk and they must skin it. Zanu PF employed those ghost workers who are doing absolutely nothing, but get a salary every month,” he said.
“Government must just bite the bullet and fire these ghost workers. But because it’s their people, they are even afraid to deal with them,” Gutu said.
Angeline Chitando, acting president of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, dismissed Chinamasa’s statement saying they were political.
She said her organisation would rather listen to Mupfumira because Chinamasa had no authority to discuss labour issues.
But economist Godfrey Kanyenze said he could not understand how Mupfumira planned to cut down on the wage bill without retrenching.
“Where do you cut when the whole budget is employment? The real issue is 83% is going to employment costs. Therefore, that is the tree that we must cut,” Kanyemba said.
“It’s almost like the bonus issue — it’s politics. These areas are highly sensitive.” – NewsDay