Political gamesmanship behind the Bonus Crisis

By Darlington Nyambiya

Zanu PF’s most formidable opponent in its 37 year long ruinous rule of Zimbabwe has not been the overstated sanctions imposed by the West, nor has it been Morgan Tsvangirai and the MDC despite beating the ruling party in the  March 2008 election. But Zanu PF’s worst enemy has been its political gamesmanship that is aimed at resolving today’s problems by ignoring tomorrow’s future.

Darlington Nyambiya
Darlington Nyambiya

The biggest challenge in the ruling party has been its focus in solving short term goals for political gamesmanship while procrastinating on the long term plans of the Government that are in the interest of nation. Recently the Government averted a national strike by civil servants when it agreed to set dates to pay last year’s bonuses.

However it does not take a rocket scientist to observe that the Government is currently struggling to pay salaries of civil servants and does not have funds to pay the promised bonuses. This is clearly demonstrated by Government constantly postponing the payment of civil servants salaries.

So one would wonder why the Government would put itself in an unfeasible position of promising to pay the bonuses when it is clear that it is broke ?

Regional Comparison: Public Sector Wage Bill

In fact in December 2016, when Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa announced the 2017 budget he indicated that employment costs where already gobbling over 91% of the revenue.

However, if you compare with Zimbabwe’s regional peers, you will discover that the government’s reluctance to cut the unsustainable wage bill is due to political gamesmanship.

The latest figures from Statistics SA show that the wage bill for the South African Government in 2014-15 was R514 billion versus revenue of R1, 22 trillion. This means that the percentage for wages was 42 % versus the revenue. And if you also compare with regional East Africa powerhouse Kenya, according to the Institute of Economic Affairs-Kenya, in the year 2012/13, the public sector wage bill in Kenya constituted about 43 percent of the national budget and rose to 45 percent in 2013/14.

And if you move to West Africa, to compare Zimbabwe with Ghana, the official Ghana website reports that government reduced its wage bill from over 70 per cent in 2010 to between 49 and 51 per cent by 2015 and expressed the hope that it would further reduce to 40 per cent by the close of 2017.

The above figures reveal that if you compare Zimbabwe with its peers, it is evident that other countries in the region are spending less than 50% of revenue on wages, however Zimbabwe is the odd one out as it is on course to become one of the few nations on earth that spends all its revenue on wages, leaving no funds for other critical areas like health, education and infrastructure development.

But, the question that refuses to go away is: why would the Zanu PF Government continue to spend most of its national revenue on wages instead of developing the country?

Political Gamesmanship

And  as  recent as in September 2016 political gamesmanship was at play when Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa  made the revelations that the government’s wage bill was now consuming 96,8% of total revenue. And he then proposed for the reduction of salaries and suspending the 2016 and 2017 bonus. But within a week andfaced with an angry civil service whose salaries had been repeatedly delayed, Information minister, Christopher Mushohwe had reversed the planned measures.

Even in 2015, Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa attempted to suspend bonuses but was again thwarted by President Mugabe. The attempts by Chinamasa to trim the government wage bill shows that the government knows  the symptoms of its financial challenges but  it  seems  it  is reluctant  to face the problem head on by  reducing salaries , downsizing the civil service  and suspending bonuses.

But this is mind boggling, why would the Government be unwilling to resolve its financial challenges, when it knows the root problem?

Ghost Workers

In 2011, Ernst & Young (India) on behalf of the Public Service ministry conducted a comprehensive payroll and skills audit, and discovered that more than 75 000 civil servants were ghost workers, mostly unqualified Zanu PF militias and supporters.

The highlight of the Ernst & Young (India) audit was when it unearthed 6 861 ghost workers employed in a single day by the Ministry of Youth. These ghost workers were the youths that had been trained at the national youth service centre’s and had now been turned into a Zanu PF militia infamously known as the ‘Green bombers’ that assisted the ruling party with strong arm tactics in election campaigns.

The Ernst & Young (India) audit clearly proved beyond a reasonable doubt, the depth of the patronage system created by the ruling party and evidently showed the reason why the Zanu PF government was reluctant to downsize its civil service.


In conclusion, political gamesmanship is behind the bonus crisis because as proven by a recent credible audit, over 75,000 ghost workers on government pay roll were Zanu PF supporters and militia. If the government had acted to dismiss the ghost workers and downsize the civil service way back in 2011 after the audit, the authorities would have enough funds to pay both salaries and bonuses on time. And more importantly, Government would have more funds to invest in other critical areas like health, education, agriculture and infrastructure development.

However that will not happen anytime soon because the Zanu PF Government is reluctant to dismiss the ghost workers as it will result in cutting off the patronage system that the ruling party utilizes to mobilize support. And with the 2018 elections drawing closer , Government will not only maintain the current bloated wage bill but it will likely increase as Zanu PF will add more ghost workers to assist with its election campaign.

The Writer: Darlington Nyambiya is the President of the Local Solutions Council (LSC) , a leading Zimbabwe Think Tank. The LSC is a Think Tank with members from diverse Zimbabwean communities in politics, business, religion and sports. He is also a Pro Democracy Activist, Political Strategist, Human Rights Defender, Social Media Commentator, Writer and a Business Executive. Contact Details ; Skype ID : darlington.nyambiya  , Twitter handle: D_Nyambiya,  Email : [email protected] , Corporate Twitter Handle : lsc_thinktank  For more information on  Strategic Views on Zimbabwe log onto our website on :Website : www.localsolutionscouncil.com. Copyright © 2017 All Rights Reserved. The Article may not be published or reproduced in any form without prior written permission

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