BY NQOBANI NDLOVU/KENNETH NYANGANI
A move to award soldiers a 37% pay increase at a time when the government is silent about reviewing civil servants salaries has drawn fire from some teachers’ unions, who say it exposed double standards.
According to Defence ministry correspondence, soldiers received a salary increment effective April 1.
Their allowances would also be reviewed according to grades.
This is not the first time uniformed officers have received salary increments ahead of their colleagues within the public service.
The local currency has been sliding in value in recent weeks, as inflation gallops, sparking an increase in prices of goods and services.
According to the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe, an average urban family now needs over $90 000 a month as of March to survive.
The soldiers’ salary review was forced by inflationary pressures, the ministry’s circular says.
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“Be advised that the following deliberations have been made between Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF), Defence Forces Service Commission (FSC), Ministry of Defence (MOD) and war veterans and Treasury, the DFSC has approved part of the implementation of the military concept and related allowance for colonels and below,” the circular reads in part.
In 2020, there was a widespread outcry from ordinary civil servants over an increment awarded exclusively to the men in uniform.
Defence minister Oppah Muchinguri and army spokesperson Alphios Makotore said welfare issues for soldiers were confidential before demanding questions in writing.
“You may have to send your questions in writing. Security and defence matters cannot be discussed over the phone,” Muchinguri said yesterday.
On Friday, Makotore said: “Issues of salaries are confidential and we are going to respond on Monday.
“Send the questions in writing and we put it on record.”
On Thursday, MDC Alliance legislator Peter Moyo told Parliament that the government’s failure to adequately remunerate soldiers was pushing them into crime.
In March, three soldiers were each sentenced to 15 years behind bars after being convicted of armed robbery, theft and unlawful entry by the Zimbabwe Defence Forces general court martial.
However, teacher unions could not hide their anger over the alleged unfair treatment they are getting from their employer.
“The government is very aware that the military plays a key role to preserve power and we don’t care about who is in power.
“What we need is food on the table and that can be done by improving the welfare of the teachers,” Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe president Obert Masaraure said.
Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe president Takavafira Zhou added: “The government has never taken us seriously.”
Teachers are at loggerheads with the government over poor working conditions.
Last year, there were reports that junior soldiers were sent on forced re-training in Hwange as punishment for demanding a salary increase during an ostensibly no-holds-barred meeting.