November 4, 2010

Civil servants' salaries delayed till December

The treasury issued an internal memorandum informing principal secretaries and heads of departments that public servants’ salaries for November will not be paid until December 5 - 8. For months now, government has been relying on the Central Bank of Swaziland to pay salaries by running down reserves. The Weekend Observer has revealed that with reserves now just at two months of imports, international financial institutions like the International Monetary Fund have warned that further drawing down of the reserves will now threaten the lilangeni parity to the South African rand. Acting Accountant General Fansile Mabila confirmed the internal memorandum. She denied earlier reports that had swept the capital like wild fire that there would be no salaries for the month of November altogether. She could not produce the memo, but referred further details to government spokesman Percy Simelane who also said he had not received it but only heard about it in the grapevine. Mabila said she was not certain about what would happen in December except to say for the month of November government payroll was like any government expenditure, which had been affected by the current financial crisis the country had found itself in.

The news was received with great shock and anger by the civil servants. President of the Swaziland National Association of Teachers Sibongile Mazibuko said it was not admissible that government would pay from December 5 since stop orders against the salaries of civil begin on the 21st of every month until the last day of payment of civil servants. Beyond that, banks begin to charge borrowing costs. “Government has no remorse, the prime minister continues to travel first class trips to destinations where the country is represented. There is also the issue of Circular No. 1, the hefty allowances to politicians and unwarranted public gatherings sponsored by government.”

She added that all teachers were now called to attend a meeting that was otherwise planned for the SNAT Coop membership to also discuss the delayed salaries. She said it was strategically planned by government to coincide with the closing of schools on December 2 and that schools examinations would have been completed, thus making it difficult for the teachers to organise and confront their situation.

National Association of Public Servants and Allied Workers’ Union (NAPSAWU) said while the leadership was still to return to inform its members it was no doubt that civil disobedience would continue. “We do not expect government to have done that because there had been no consultations prior to the memo, this is an imposition. But since the beginning of the year our members have been on the streets, it is easy to predict the same would happen this time around.” He further said agreements of stop orders between members and debtors, management of the family and other engagements had now been disrupted. “This will create untold anger among the members and then this anger will manifest itself in their actions. Even those who are not our members will join our ranks. Those who thought this was a fairy tale will now be mobilised into action.” Chairman of the Finance Committee Marwick Khumalo said he was expecting anything from salary cuts to delayed salaries or no pay at all.

Khumalo said because he was chairman of the finance committee, he was very much aware of the situation and that he worked closely with the finance minister.
He said politicians were not spared because the government payroll cuts across everyone who works for it. Asked to comment on speculation that other civil servants might be paid, Marwick said that would be a travesty of justice because everybody must be affected equally.

He, however, said he was aware that the next trench from the Southern African Customs Union would come in January and probably to ease the situation. Khumalo also commended the work done by the Swaziland Revenue Authority for collecting revenue but was quick to say solutions lie with the coming of foreign direct investment (FDI), otherwise the state would tax the citizenry to exhaustion. (Weekend Observer)


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