In a dramatic turn of events, the Ministry of Finance and Economic development has ordered the Higher and Tertiary Education ministry to pay State University staffers and lecturers’ salaries from the own pockets as government can no longer afford the huge university wage bill.
The move follows a 50% salary cut on all Sate Universities employees that was proposed in the 2017 National budget.
It was however not clear if the move was also motivated by the general assessment that the ministry has extra funds through its Zimdef, or its a direct attack meant to frustrate Moyo after a foiled attempt to arrest him on corruption, linking it to ZanuPf internal wars.
By Bee Sting
A venomous statement issued and signed by the ministry’s permanent secretary, Machivenyika Mapuranga indicated that Finance and Economic Development Minister Patrick Chinamasa had summer-salted on his pledge which indicated that the 2016 wage bill would spill into 2017 without adjustments.
Key players have been alarmed by this decision taken by the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development which, according to Staff Association, had assured the Staff Association, during a meeting held on 7 December 2016, that the 2017 Wage Bill was to be based on the October 2016 Salary Wage Bill. This means that the 2017 salary bill would remain at the 2016 levels and the Staff Association formally communicated this position to staff of all State Universities.
The statement further indicated that the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology had on 17 January 2017, presented to the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Higher Education, Science and Technology Development, the gravity of a reduction on the estimates of expenditure on salaries for grant aided institutions from $221 601 000 to $125 178 000.
“Universities are owed $7 963 320 by Treasury being half of August 2015 salary. During this meeting these concerns were echoed by the following Vice Chancellors, Prof. L. M. Nyagura (UZ), Prof. E. Mwenje (BUSE), Prof. P. K. Kuipa (LSU) and Prof V.N. Muzvidziwa (MSU). The Committee assured the Ministry that they would take the matter to Parliament.”
Meanwhile, the ministry officials stated that they had raised raised alarm o0ver the uncostututio9nality and legality of the salary reductions with the view of having them revisited.
“Members of the Staff Association whose constituency had already raised alarm bells wrote to the Ministry indicating that in terms of the Labour Act, it is illegal to reduce an employee’s salary. They unreservedly expressed their position that the salary budget should be reversed to 100% with immediate effect. Members categorically stated that state universities are not able and have no capacity to pay for the other 50% towards employment costs.
“Universities are operating in the same harsh economic environment like any other sector. The majority (90%) of students who enroll at local Universities and Tertiary Institutions are from poor families from rural and high density urban communities.
“Treasury continues to ignore this reality. Universities are owed huge fees arrears by students without the capacity to pay. Already many students are failing to sit for their examinations or access their results because they have not paid their fees at current levels,” said the statement