RBZ refusing to pay retrenched workers

The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) has been accused of ignoring the desperate plight of 1,546 staff members, who were retrenched last year and promised a series of payments that have not been honoured.

The workers have said it is public knowledge that the RBZ raised at least $9.7 million from the sale of some assets, but the bank only paid out the first $5,000 of what had been promised. The payments stopped and the workers’ medical aid and school fees benefits were cancelled.

The case was assigned to an independent arbitrator who ruled that the RBZ should pay the workers the full balance due. But the bank appealed against the ruling and in court papers filed through their lawyers only committed to pay the money when more assets were sold. But this never happened. The bank paid out another $5,000 instead, leaving some retrenched workers in bad situations as they had borrowed in expectation.

Bank officials are reportedly ignoring requests for a meeting to explain what has happened.

Webster Ngundu, who chairs the Retrenched RBZ Workers Committee, described the workers’ situation as a humanitarian crisis. He told SW Radio Africa that several former RBZ workers had committed suicide after the bank failed to fulfill its promises. He said others had died from the stress caused by the resulting crisis.

“The families are no longer on medical aid. That was terminated. Many of the children, including mine, are at home because we cannot afford the school fees. Education is a right. So it’s not just the retrenched workers suffering. It is their families, multiply by six and you get the number affected,” Ngundu explained.

Many of the workers were evicted from their homes and others lost property that included their cars, refrigerators and furniture to loan sharks who they had borrowed money from.

Ngundu said the point man appointed by Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono has ignored their pleas and refused to meet with them to explain why payments are not being made.

“We were given the HR manager at the bank, Elliott Rwatirera, as the point man. But he has not performed to our satisfaction. Sometimes we write to him and he does not respond. We invited him to a meeting to explain to the retrenched workers why they have not been paid. He did not show up,” Ngundu explained.

Ngundu added that Gideon Gono himself has not been helpful or sympathetic. When the former RBZ chairman was told about the first staff member to commit suicide, he allegedly said ‘Mamhepo ekumusha kwake’, meaning it is just bad spirits from his rural home.

The retrenched workers now plan to appeal to parliament to set a date and to appoint a committee that can look into what has happened. Ngundu said they have written to parliament and are waiting for a response. SW Radio Africa

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