HARARE – Members of parliament in Zimbabwe have expressed their dissatisfaction with Finance and Economic Development Minister Mthuli Ncube, blaming him for the skyrocketing inflation and the devaluation of the local currency.
They argue that these factors have severely eroded the salaries of government workers, leaving them struggling to make ends meet.
The anger of the parliamentarians comes in light of the recent salaries received by soldiers and police officers, which range from $25,000 to $68,000.
These amounts are deemed insufficient to purchase even a dozen loaves of bread in the current economic climate.
Over the past few weeks, legislators have been demanding a ministerial statement from Ncube, who is reportedly preoccupied with his political campaigns in Bulawayo’s Cowdray Park constituency.
They have called for the suspension of parliamentary sessions until the minister addresses the pressing issues of civil servants’ salaries and the rising prices of goods.
During a session in the National Assembly, Chalton Hwende, the legislator for Kuwadzana East, highlighted that this was not the first time they had requested Ncube’s presence in Parliament to address the matter.
Hwende stated, “Last week, we appealed for Ncube to come here and speak about the issue of civil servants’ salaries and price increases in shops. You asked that we show how salaries are pegged.
“When we talked last week, people had not yet started receiving their salaries. (On Monday) soldiers and police officers started getting their money, and some are still receiving it now.”
Hwende pointed out that the salaries being received by the police and soldiers were based on the exchange rate of US$1 to $900 in May.
However, the exchange rate has increased since then, significantly affecting the purchasing power of these individuals.
He emphasized that many of them faced additional challenges due to service providers like Nyaradzo Funeral Services, which charge rates in US dollars.
With the exchange rate, this means they would have to pay significantly more, leading to a loss of their hard-earned money.
To support his claims, Hwende presented a copy of a payslip from a sergeant in the army, revealing that the individual received $68,992 last month.
He highlighted that this amount would only buy one full chicken and 1kg of meat at a local supermarket, illustrating the struggle faced by civil servants to survive on such salaries.
Hwende also criticized Ncube for spending more time in Cowdray Park and failing to address the economic crisis in Parliament.
He demanded that the business of the Parliament be suspended until Ncube appeared before the House to address the pressing issues.
In response to Hwende’s claims, Deputy Speaker Tsitsi Gezi questioned the authenticity of the copies of the payslips presented.
Gezi insisted on authentic evidence rather than messages sent through phones, stating, “Bring authentic evidence when you come here and not these papers that you have brought to us.”
Undeterred, Hwende reiterated his demand for Ncube to urgently attend to the economic crisis and called for the suspension of parliamentary business until the minister appeared.
Legislator Willias Madzimure emphasized that it had been three weeks since Ncube was tasked with delivering a ministerial statement in the National Assembly.
He highlighted that Ncube had not sought permission to present the statement, indicating his lack of preparedness to respond to the issues at hand.
Temba Mliswa, the independent legislator for Norton, further demanded the summoning of Ncube to Parliament to explain the controversial allocation of unbudgeted US$400,000 housing loans to each of the country’s judges.
Mliswa stressed the importance of transparency and accountability, particularly when large sums of money were involved.
The ongoing economic crisis in Zimbabwe has resulted in soaring prices, making it increasingly difficult for public and private sector workers to afford basic necessities.
As the parliamentarians continue to press for answers and solutions, the urgency to address the economic challenges and improve the livelihoods of citizens remains a critical issue for the government to address.