The retrenchment was hailed as the central bank’s first step towards normalcy after it had steeped itself in activities that fall in the realms of the Ministry of Finance as the custodians of fiscal policies.
Nine months after the exercise was carried out, the former RBZ employees are struggling to make ends meet as the bank has failed to pay them retrenchment packages on time.
In the process some have died due to stress caused by the delays.
One such victim is Clive Tinashe Gwara (30), a young man who had showed all sorts of promises, until he was retrenched in January. He hanged himself early this month.
Standardbusiness tracked his family to Glendale, a small town just outside Mazowe.
Gwara was employed in the imports division of the RBZ and his family says his life changed drastically after his retrenchment.
His mother, Loice Gwara, in between sobs, told Standardbusiness how Gwara’s death devastated the family.
“He was my father. Even if he was not working, he would fend for the family,” she said.
She said Gwara had bought a digital camera and a printer, which he wanted to use to start a photography business. But such a vision was buried with him more than two weeks ago.
“When he was going to work, things were okay but the situation deteriorated when he left Harare for Marondera after the retrenchment,” she said.
The family has a house in Marondera.
“When you leave one job you keep on applying thinking that you will get another job.
“His friends would come to see him with their cars, but for him he had nothing despite his two degrees,” she said.
Loice Gwara spoke of how her son, Clive, was hallucinating and his behaviour had changed in the few days before he met his fate.
The family took him to a psychiatrist at Harare Hospital who referred them to a physician. On the day that he was supposed to go to the physician, Clive died.
Gwara is one of the former RBZ employees who died before receiving exit packages as the institution has failed to honour its part of the bargain. As part of the agreement that paved way for the retrenchments, the RBZ agreed to pay the former workers a lump sum of US$5 000 each when they left the organisation. It promised to settle the packages in two installments, on March 31 and on June 30.
The bank agreed to cover medical and funeral expenses for six months to coincide with the last date of paying the installment. RBZ also said that it would pay school fees for two terms to employees who enjoyed that privilege.
While the bank is still to fully pay all the former workers, it stopped paying out medical aid and funeral cover after six months. To date RBZ has paid the retrenched workers US$15 000 in three equal installments.
‘Situation dire for RBZ retrenchees’
Webster Ngundu, a representative of the retrenchees told Standardbusiness that the situation was dire for the former workers.
“It’s the retrenched and the entire train behind him. Assuming that the retrenched worker had a family of six to look after, we are talking of more than 7 000 people suffering,” Ngundu said.
The bank says it has no money and will only pay out after it has completed the disposal of its non-core assets.
The ex-workers approached the Labour Court in May to force RBZ to honour its obligation.
An arbitral award issued on September 16 ordered the bank to pay all outstanding dues immediately and pay compensation of 5% per annum as a penalty for delaying payments.
The court ruled that a focal person should be appointed to interface between the bank and the former workers. In its appeal against the award, RBZ argued that it would suffer irreparable harm if the award was enforced.
“Respondents (ex-workers) have already indicated they will be approaching the High Court for enforcement purposes. If the award is enforced, the applicant may not be able to pay and contempt of court proceedings may follow to the detriment of the applicant,” RBZ averred.
Ngundu says the delay in paying the packages shows that the bank does not understand the true value of money.
RBZ contends that no one has been prejudiced as it had already paid workers part of the money.