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CIVIL servants have slammed the government for delaying to pay them bonuses, saying this was the first time since independence that they were being paid the 13th cheque after Christmas.

The Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Deputy Minister, Cde Tongai Muzenda, announced at the weekend that the rest of the civil servants will be paid in the first week of January. The police and and soldiers were paid their bonuses last month

A primary school teacher in Bulawayo who is a single mother said the delay in paying bonuses had shattered her hopes of a merry Christmas.

"Honestly what's the use of earning money in January that you were supposed to spend on Christmas. Now I can't buy goodies for my children and my grandmother in the rural areas," said the teacher who preferred anonymity.

She said this year's Christmas will be the worst for her family as she has no money to spend.

Another disgruntled civil servant said: "My friend the 13th cheque was going to help in offsetting some of my debts and paying rent and other utilities. Now I don't know where I'll get the money even for school fees. Travelling to the rural areas is no longer possible this Christmas", she said.

A number of teachers and nurses said there was no guarantee that they'll be paid the bonus in January.

"I'm not convinced that we will be paid the promised bonus given the way government is changing goal posts," said another teacher who also spoke on condition of anonymity.

Some of the nurses who spoke to Chronicle expressed dismay at the delay in paying the bonuses, saying what was painful was that police officers and soldiers were paid last month.

"We're told that we're going to be paid bonuses in December at the latest. We'd therefore planned our holidays based on that promise. What is this nonsense we are hearing now? This's unfair and the government should take us seriously," said a fuming nurse who is based in the rural areas.

However, a handful of civil servant who spoke said the development was a blessing in disguise.

"Although it's painful and demoralising to spend holidays without a bonus, this is good for us because we'll beat the 'January disease'. We'll just have to make do with what we have. Yes, we won't enjoy the Christmas but we'll have the money for fees and school uniforms," said another civil servant.

Civil servants' unions yesterday threatened to go on strike if government did not pay them in the first week of January.

They said if their employer continued shifting goalposts, schools would not open for the first term as they would be no teachers.

The Zimbabwe Teachers' Association chief executive officer Sifiso Ndlovu said it was the first time in the history of Zimbabwe that teachers would end the year without getting the 13th cheque.

"It has never happened in the 34 years of independence. It almost happened in 1995 but the matter was resolved at the Supreme Court and we got our bonuses," he said.

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