EDITORIAL/Barking up the wrong tree

RELATIONS between government and its strong band of workers have soared once again.
In the past, government workers would threaten to down tools, pressing for better pay and improved working conditions.
These days, that civil servants are earning salaries that are below the breadline is no longer an issue: The issue is now about government’s ability to dispense those poor salaries on time.
From the beginning of last year, pay dates in the civil service are now more of a moving target.
Currently, there is so much uncertainty in government because of the threat of strike action by civil servants who could not access their salaries and bonuses on time.
Much of the anger is being directed at Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa who, as head of the exchequer, is being accused of failing to raise the cash required to pay the salaries, plus bonuses.
This is where government workers are getting it wrong for this has nothing to do with Chinamasa.
In fact, Chinamasa saw this coming a long time ago.
Sometime last year, he scrapped bonus payments until 2017 after observing that Treasury had no capacity to pay the thirteenth cheque. He was, however, later to reverse the decision after President Robert Mugabe censured him for jumping the gun.
Even though Chinamasa immediately climbed down, the signs were clearly on the wall that Treasury simply didn’t have the capacity to pay.
With industry on its knees; workers losing their jobs in thousands, and commodity prices falling to their lowest levels in as many years, Treasury has been hit hard on the pocket.
While government would in the past bank on aid, grants and balance of payments support to shore up its coffers, nothing much has been trickling into the State purse. Also, foreign investment, which could have eased the cash crunch, has been eluding Zimbabwe.
These and other issues cannot be addressed by Chinamasa alone. It will take collective effort on the part of government, the private sector, labour, civil society and the international community to get things right.
Although Chinamasa is talking sense in terms of what needs to be done to get Zimbabwe out of the deep hole, some amongst his colleagues in Cabinet are sadly engaging in unhelpful political grandstanding that should have no place at all in an economy that is crying out for investment.
Instead of contemplating strike action, which can only make it worse for ordinary Zimbabweans, who are trying their best under very difficult conditions, government workers should not bark up the wrong tree. Their focus should be on growing the economic cake so that everyone can enjoy a piece of it in future.
Because of ruinous economic policies and toxic politics, Zimbabwe’s economic cake has been shrinking to levels where it can no longer feed us all.
Workers in the private sector have been feeling the heat for some time. Now, the civil servants are feeling that heat too.
The time to sober up and act rationally is now before the situation implodes.

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