Zimbabwe teachers suffer as pay delay hits hard

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe in a meeting with liberation veterans, 7 April 2016
Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe in a meeting with liberation veterans, 7 April 2016 REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo

In the latest delays to public worker salaries, the Zimbabwean government has announced that nurses, pensioners and all teachers would not be paid until July. Many public servants have complained that this has created gap in trying to provide for their families.


“Teachers are stranded in Harare, they can’t go back to their work places because they don’t have the money to get on the bus to go back to work,” says Ellington Kasimani, a 6th grade teacher speaking on the telephone from Goromonzi, in Mashonaland East.

Kasimani is referring to the reported 45 per cent of teachers who keep their families in Harare or other cities, and travel to the rural areas to work, where basic amenities are scarce, and schools do not have computers or even electricity.

“Teachers in the rural areas, we are demotivated with everything if you look at the houses we are living in, if you look at the water – we have to walk for kilometres to get the water,” says Kasimani.

Rural teachers in Zimbabwe suffer from pay delay

The stress of having no salary is causing a strain on the daily lives of teachers, who are commenting on social media, saying they are afraid of being blacklisted for not paying their bills on time.

“With the current scenario in Zimbabwe, now the teachers have to travel to town, only to come back empty-handed,” says Robson Chere, Secretary-General of the Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (RTUZ).

“Some will end up wandering, moving around the streets without anything to eat because they don’t even have money to buy food. And when they go to the bank, they are told there’s no money,” he adds.

Despite the hardship teachers are facing, the students are this their number one concern. The students are bearing the brunt of the pay gap, says Kasimani. “The students are the ones who are suffering-- we should be preparing for the final exams this term,” he says.

The pay gap started in November, says Vince Musewe, a Harare-based independent economist, after Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa refused to pay bonuses due to lack of funds but President Robert Mugabe forced him to make payout.

“This money has really put a squeeze on cash. And so, the government is also faced with dwindling tax reserves -- there is basically no income coming into the country,” says Musewe.

Zimbabwe’s paltry income from taxing tobacco and gold exports is not enough to pay salaries, says Musewe. “The country is bankrupt,” he says, “So people are scared that what’s going to happen next month is that there is going to be no payday.”

Police and military officials will be paid by 27 June, while pensioners, medical professionals and teachers will not be paid until July.

Trade Union leader Chere blames Finance Minister Chinamasa.

“From 1 July to 6 July we are going to sit-in at the minister of finance’s office until our issues are resolved. We are saying the ministry failed, so it’s high time the minister should resign now,” he says.

According to economist Musewe’s perspective, President Mugabe is behind the fallout. “We are really at the brink-- the economy has collapsed, and Mugabe is refusing to acknowledge it,” says Musewe.

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