THIS is an open letter to President Robert Mugabe in his capacity as the Commander-in-chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, and to the Minister of Defence. I would like to highlight to you what the top commanders of the army have not told
First and foremost, morale among the soldiers is at its lowest level ever. Can you imagine someone, the least paid soldier grossing $138 000 per month and netting $90 000 transport and housing allowance inclusive after p.a.y.e and pension deductions. From this amount make deductions for rent, transport, clothing and food for the whole family when two litres of cooking oil is going for $15 000, bread $1 800 and sugar, salt, meat, soap and all the basics you may think of.
To make matters worse, most camps are outside the cities and one has to board at least two buses to work and the same number back home. That is approximately $3 400 per day or $102 000 for the journey (Chitungwiza to Army headquarters). Think of those who stay in Mabvuku or Chitungwiza who work at Inkomo barracks (Darwendale). For transport, one has to part with more than twice his monthly net salary. Where is he supposed to get the extra money? And army commanders are telling you “morale is high in the army”!
The recent job evaluation was a shame. Top commanders awarded themselves more than 400% pay increments and $72 000 transport allowances plus housing allowances. They get entertainment allowances, free food for their families, free personal vehicles and fuel on top of these allowances.
The ordinary soldier gets $22 000 transport allowance akwira Chawasarira bus to work. How about a soldier who works in Kariba or Victoria Falls. He needs $120 000 to and from work.
Why were soldiers removed from other civil servants’ decision-making body, the Public Service Commission. Commanders advocated for a Defence Commission to decide soldiers’ salaries from the budget allocated.
In other words, top commanders award themselves hefty increments and very little to lower ranks. How can a worker decide what another worker should get? Isn’t it that the employer, in this case the government, should decide what its employees should earn.
Now, how can you explain a scenario where a commander gets a 500% pay increment while a junior officer gets a 120% pay increment. Widening the gap between the rich and poor or a case of divide rule? Tiri tese here muZimbabwe yeropa?
I don’t think we are yet Uhuru. Be practical, our President. Take the pay slip of one of your lowest paid civil servant and do a budget for him or go shopping for him leaving enough for transport for a month. What you are paying your teacher, soldier, policeman for a month’s salary is not even enough to buy Bona or Robert Junior a pair of shoes. My heart bleeds.
It is against this background and perpetual suffering of other workers (our brothers and sisters) in private companies that I say a storm is brewing. It’s dangerous to drive people to such desperate levels.
We went to war to fight Ian Smith’s injustices and insensitivity and, to us, the current situation has gone a level higher than Smith’s. Loyalty is earned, not extricated by force. Your commanders are betraying you because of selfishness and greed. A commander cannot win a war but soldiers do. You have oppressed the majority but rest assured that in anguish and poverty we can unite. Misodzi yevanhu vakura haina kunaka.
We are the men on the ground and we know what is happening on earth while you are living on Mars. We are not mercenaries but merely want a decent life.
A sane man should not reach a point where there is no difference between life and death.
I wish you leadership and vision.