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Hefty loans for soldiers

PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe’s financially beleaguered government has advanced loans, which run into trillions of dollars, to disgruntled soldiers, police officers and civil servants to “pacify” them ahead of elections on March 29.

Sources said the government secured the money to dole out to uniformed forces and the civil service from the Reserve Bank, which by February 1 had loaned the state over $137 trillion to meet its recurrent expenditure and other obligations. The sources said the RBZ last month deposited the money into the accounts of the Public Service Commission, the Defence Service Commission, Prisons Service Commission and the Police Service Commission for on-ward transmission to the beneficiaries.

Soldiers reportedly got between $1,2 billion and $3 billion depending on their rank. Teachers, who have been on a go slow since schools opened last month pressing for a $1,7 billion monthly salary, got $300 million, while nurses and doctors were given over $700 million.

A private in the army, the lowest rank in the army, who earned $310 million in January, this month got $1,2 billion.

It could not, however, be ascertained at the time of going to press why there were discrepancies in the loans disbursed to the uniformed forces and civil servants.

The loans, the sources said, were doled out seven days before the beneficiaries’ salaries were due and there was no prior announcement on the disbursement of the monies or when they were expected to repay the loans and at what interest rate.

Zimbabwe Teachers Association chief executive officer Peter Mabhande confirmed that civil servants had received money from the government as from last week, but denied that it was a loan or a salary advance.

Mabhande, who also sits on the Apex Council, a body representing civil servants’ interest, claimed that the money was a balance of last month’s salaries.

“Whatever civil servants received recently was not a salary advance or a loan, but a balance of their January salaries,” Mabhande told the Zimbabwe Independent on Wednesday.

He said the Apex Council had been negotiating with the government for a salary review since the beginning of the year and the negotiations were only concluded on January 23. By then, Mabhande added, civil servants and the uniformed forces’ salaries were already processed.

“Salary negotiations were only concluded on January 23, which happened to be the pay day for the civil service, so the money they got recently is the balance of the agreed salary for January,” Mabhande said.

However, sources in the public sector insisted that they got loans from the government not salary balances.

“No pay slips were issued for the loans, but what we know is that the armed forces were the highest beneficiaries of the scheme,” one of the sources said.

This is not the first time the government has advanced loans to its employees. In January, nurses and doctors went on strike to press for better remuneration and working conditions and government reacted by advancing loans payables at a compound interest of 5%.

The country’s civil service and the uniformed forces have of late been losing key employees who opt to go into the private sector or abroad in search of greener pastures. To arrest the human resources flight, the government introduced a technical retention allowance under the Skills Retention Fund to benefit professionals in the government.

Payments were made to employees in the Ministries of Economic Development, Finance, Health and Child Welfare, Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, and Local Government.

Lucia Makamure

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