Workers bear the brunt of sinking economy, corruption

It boggles the mind how the economic meltdown and corruption resulting in ill-treatment of employees has failed to generate concern and debate among Zimbabweans like the purging of political rivals by various political parties. Simply ignoring the problem does not make it go away.

NHAMO KWARAMBA

Something needs to be done as a matter of urgency to resuscitate the economy and address corruption and ensure that employers and employees co-exist in harmony.

According to the Global Corruption Index, Zimbabwe in 2014 was ranked 156 out of 175 highly corrupt countries. The ranking is a result of widespread bribery, lack of punishment for corrupt activities especially at public institutions and the wait and see approach permanently adopted by Zimbabweans. More worryingly, the report from the Auditor-General’s office on corruption is shocking. Twenty two ministries audited were found wanting on the corporate governance front. The audit also unearthed abuse of fund accounts and flouting of procurement procedures. To date, nothing has been done to deal with these corrupt activities. Instead, employees are the ones getting a raw deal.

Employees have been going for months without pay. Harare City Council, Air Zimbabwe, National Railways of Zimbabwe employees are among the most affected. While the state of the economy has been blamed for this, recent media exposures on corruption from the Auditor-General’s office on ministries leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to corporate governance and general business ethics.

The majority have effectively thrown them out of the window.
It is incumbent upon the responsible offices to address these issues for employees to regain their respect in employer-employee relationship set up.

The situation on the ground suggests that ill-treated employees are suffering in silence. They prefer to hang on, like the (Shona) proverbial saying which means, “It is better to hang on than to fall”.

They cannot confront the system for fear of reprisals and losing employment.

However, actions by some ministers deserve special mention. Although more can be done, credit must be given where it is deserved. ICT minister Supa Mandiwanzira and Transport minister Obert Mpofu dismissed Potraz and Caaz board’s respectively on allegations of corruption.

The boards reportedly abused their offices to enrich themselves. Potraz board was reported to have spent US$90 000 in travel allowances among other unjustified claims.

The prevailing economic hardships has seen a number of companies closing down. Affected employees fail to get terminal benefits on time and sometimes leave with nothing regardless of the period they have served.

This is unfair considering that some employees would have worked for a single company for the whole of their working life. While companies are also suffering, failing to pay employees and sending them packing with nothing is not only unfair but cruel. Many who would have reached retirement age suffer most.

Culprits and economic saboteurs fuelling the free fall of the economy and ill-treating employees must face the music. They must be brought to book as a deterent to others. This is essential if the country is to return to its glory days when having a job was meaningful.

Some people that normally fill newspaper spaces bragging about their wealth cannot explain how they got such riches. If truth is to be told, such personalities are good candidates for Chikurubi maximum prison for flouting business laws and breaking labour laws at will.

A snap survey on the state of employment in Zimbabwe showed that many employees do not enjoy going to work anymore. Deplorable working conditions and poor salaries leave employees in quandary. Employees end up at the mercy of cruel and greedy business owners who take advantage of the situation to ill-treat them with impunity. They are many cases of ill-treatment of employees which are not reported to the National Employment Councils or Ministry of Labour officials for fear of reprisals.

An employee deserves respect and dignity. Ill-treating an employee because the economy is not performing is not justifiable. Businesses must engage relevant authorities to find a lasting solution rather than vent their anger on helpless employees.
Culprits responsible for ill-treating employees are both foreign and some indigenous business owners.

Workers made to work for long hours are not paid overtime, get deplorable salaries under the minimum salary scales recommended by the appropriate National Employment Councils, work without adequate safety clothing and getting minimum recognition.

That issues of corruption and the state of the economy need to be addressed.

Presenting the 2015 national budget statement Finance minister Chinamasa said urgent injection of fresh capital was critical towards resuscitating ailing industries whose capacity utilisation has dropped to 36 %, according to a Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries survey.

With 4 610 companies closing down between 2011 and 2014, and 55 443 employees losing their jobs as reported in the 2015 Budget Statement, more needs to be done to address the economic meltdown and corruption.

Many are turning to vending to make ends meet. Not everyone can be vendor, hence government needs to fix the economy.

Nhamo Kwaramba is the principal executive consultant (Human Resources Consultant) for Capacity Consultancy Group “NEW PERSPECTIVES” articles are coordinated by Lovemore Kadenge, president of the Zimbabwe Economics Society (ZES). Email kadenge.zes@gmail; cell +263 772 382 852