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Government salary deductions rile civil servants

by Staff reporter
21 May 2022 at 18:30hrs | Views
CIVIL servants are up in arms with their employer over 2.5% deductions from their salaries every month towards a loan scheme allegedly meant to benefit them.

Attempts to opt out of the "forced" loan scheme are proving cumbersome, with a union representing teachers now planning court action to stop the deductions.

In 2020, the government approved the establishment of the civil service mutual savings fund and injected ZW$100 million as seed capital augmented by the 2.5% deductions from every civil servant.  

The fund is known as the Government Employees Mutual Savings (Gems).  

When unveiling the programme, the Public Service Commission (PSC) said civil servants will access loans from the National Building Society (NBS) at interest rates of between 2% and 7%, much lower than the more than 50% charged by commercial lenders.

The government began calling for applications for the loans in May last year.

However, it  was established that there is simmering anger among civil servants who alleged that they were forced into the loan scheme against their will.

This is amid claims by their respective unions that there was secrecy over the fund, with their members not benefitting, while at the same time failing to stop the deductions because of bureaucracy in the PSC.

"None of our members are benefitting from that fund. We do not even have any information about that ponzi scheme, but what we are seeing are deductions towards Gems being made. Unfortunately, we are being referred from one office to the next in the PSC when we try to engage on the forced deductions," Zimbabwe Nurses' Association (Zina) president Enock Dongo said.

A payslip of one civil servant seen by this reporter had ZW$495.45  deducted from their April salary towards Gems.

Zimbabwe has more than 300 000 civil servants, and estimates suggest that the government may be making over ZW$150 million every month from the deductions.

"We are bitter and totally against the unilateral deductions. No one knows what is happening with those monies. Our members have tried to opt out, but the deductions have continued.  The only way forward is for the government to stop those deductions," Dongo added..

The Progressive Teachers' Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) said it plans to drag the government to court to stop the unilateral deductions.

"We have been duped again. We are now in the process of instituting legal action to demand that those teachers who were forcibly taken into Gems be given their money and with interest," PTUZ secretary-general Raymond Majongwe said.

"It's unfair, and unfortunate. This is how dictatorships work. It's another hoax, bank fraud of unimaginable proportions."

PTUZ president Takavafira Zhou added: "Gems has always been shrouded in mystery. Its origins were never by consent. It was just imposed on teachers. The best way forward is to just ensure that Gems deductions are stopped forthwith.

"It has always been a looting process from teachers, and no one knows where that cash is going. There is speculation that the money will be used in the forthcoming elections to fund Zanu-PF campaigns."

Zimbabwe Teachers' Association (Zimta) chief executive officer Sifiso Ndlovu weighed in, saying the government must provide clarity on the Gems funds after banks were suspended from lending.

"Our challenge now is to see if the suspension of all loans does affect the Gems fund which is primarily governed under government and also by contributing members who are not necessarily financial institutions but are individuals who are putting together their money to borrow from each other," Ndlovu said.

PSC secretary Jonathan Wutawunashe however said the Gems scheme was voluntary.

"Membership of Gems is entirely voluntary, and civil servants either opt in or out of the scheme," he said.

Source - thenewshawks