Broke Paymaster

Once upon a time, teachers reaching retirement age gleefully rubbed their palms together, anticipating their lump sum payments. Some of the retired civil servants pocketed their cheques and walked into Willowvale Mazda. They hooted joyfully at the gatekeeper as they drove out, with plastic seat covers on their backs.

Fast forward to the present. Government has failed to pay the lump sum pension award to retirees since May 2013. Knowing that destitution and certain death await them, the terminally ill, who would ordinarily have retired, elect to bite their lower lip and soldier on.

Speaking of soldiering on, there is news of discontent among the security forces. In January, finance minister Patrick Chinamasa promised pay increases for civil servants, only to announce at the final hour that the money would only come in April. Government moved the last payday from 21 to 27, because its coffers are empty. When asked if government would deliver the civil service pay increments Chinamasa, in true lawyerly fashion, responded ‘we are not in April yet.’

But all signs point to more future salary delays. Apart from failing to pay its pensioners, government still owes former MPs money in respect of allowances. One therefore wonders what will have happened between now and April 27th to improve the treasury’s coffers.

Mugabe has made light of the situation, jokingly saying he too was a civil servant and was expecting his increment. But while the audience indulged him with sycophantic laughter, Mugabe must remember that he can afford to host $1Million birthday celebrations and fly to Singapore whenever his ageing joints creak. Mere mortals have to make do on the little that is available, $300 a month, which is not enough to cover one night’s stay in the presidential suite of a Malaysian 5-star hotel.

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