THERE has been a lot of uncertainty over the possibility of government retrenching civil servants, with various pronouncements over the issue. Zimbabwe Independent (ZI) reporters Kudzai Kuwaza and Hazel Ndebele caught up with Labour minister Prisca Mupfumira (PM) this week to seek clarification over the issue as well as to discuss a variety of topics such as the size of the civil service and payment of salaries.
Below are excerpts:
ZI: We noticed that there are conflicting statements on the retrenchment of civil servants by you and your cabinet colleague Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa — have you found common ground on the matter?
PM: We are not talking about retrenchment at the moment, but the time might come where we might have to retrench after the redeployment process and when we would have dealt with overstaffed areas. All we have done for now is a civil service audit looking at the various ministries, but we have no retrenchment plan. For those areas which are overstaffed, their staff will be redeployed elsewhere depending on the qualifications and suitability to the ministry to which they are being moved. We still have to complete our audit on the foreign service which we had not included on the initial civil service audit. The other issue is that we do not want to retrench then rehire.
ZI: How long is it going to take to complete the foreign service audit?
PM: We have already started on the audit together with the Public Service Commission and I think it will be completed before the end of the year.
ZI: What is the current correct figure of employed civil servants?
PM: The figures are not static, what we have established is that as at December 31 2015 the number of employed civil servants was 187 595 and as at August 1 2016 it was 166 452. Vacant or abolished posts due to the audit report were 21 143. However, the education sector needs more teachers and the agriculture sector, due to command agriculture, needs more specialised people and station workers and so forth.
We will also have to redeploy workers for the new ministry of National Heritage. This means we will need more people to cover all those posts and therefore the figures will never remain static.
ZI: The government has been staggering civil servants salaries, how has that been going and when do you expect the situation to normalise?
PM: It has been comparatively better than what we see in the private sector where people are not being paid for many months. There is no civil servant who has gone more than a month without receiving their salary. The latest delay was a week and at the very most it was two weeks for some people, but otherwise people are paid within the end of the month, which is reasonable. Pensioners, however, get their money much later.
We are staggering the pay dates as we cannot give them all at once. As the economy improves the payments of salaries will also improve, we are trying hard under difficult circumstances for workers to get paid.
ZI: Are you concerned about the impasse between Premier Service Medical Aid Society and its former managing director Henry Mandishona who was recently awarded US$900 000 by an arbitrator as compensation for his dismissal?
PM: I do not get involved in any disputes, if there are any disputes, and not necessarily on this matter only, there are processes which are followed before the matter gets handled by me. I do not get involved in any matters where I am not invited. Labour officers at district level, provincial level and Labour Court take care of such and other issues and it then gets to me if there is need to at a much later stage. If it gets to me, we will then look at what the law says and if it is being abided to and that is when we will make our contribution.
ZI: What has been the uptake on the National Building Society set up by the National Social Security Authority (Nssa)?
PM: Since its launch, people have been opening accounts with NBS, the actual quantities we will give you later. We started with Harare and Bulawayo, we will be opening two more branches before the end of the year. We have started looking into the issue of giving mortgages.
On Thursday (yesterday) Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa will be launching a housing project which has been supported by NBS through issuance of mortgages. It is a Lafarge project where they are going to have housing for their workers with the support of the building society.
We have other housing development projects in Glaudina and in Chinhoyi where the National Social Security Authority had idle land they bought a long time ago. We will be moving into various provinces to ensure that we assist with affordable housing.