PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government has made a U-turn and re-engaged Zanu PF’s dreaded national youth service graduates, derisively called known as Green Bombers to their positions as youth officers, after they were relieved of their duties in a slew of cost-cutting measures.
In the 2018 budget, Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa announced that the youth officers would be relieved of their duties and this would see the government saving $19,3 million annually, a move that won Mnangagwa some plaudits.
But the youth officers took government to court, forcing Mnangagwa’s administration to reinstate them with effect from April 1 this year.
In a letter addressed to Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation ministry secretary, Prince Mupazviriho, a Public Service Employees’ Association secretary-general only identified as E Mhuriro said a deal had been struck to return the officers to their work stations.
“Reference is made to our meeting of April 5, 2018, with the secretary and to our subsequent meeting of April 9, 2018, with the minister of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation at your offices,” Mhuriro wrote.
“We confirm that further to the above meetings, we have agreed to enter into a consent withdrawal of the court case LC/H/REV20/18.
“By copy of this letter, we also instruct our lawyers to work with yours to come up with the consent order for withdrawal of the court case.
“This is based on the agreed position that all the 3 188 youth officers are re-instated on the pay sheet with effect from April 1, 2018.”
The youth officers’ dismissal was, according to the government, part of a rationalisation programme meant to streamline a bloated public wage bill in accordance with recommendations from multi-lateral institutions under the Lima plan.
In February, it was reported that the youth officers were still reporting for duty in spite of being informed of the termination of their contracts last December.
Some of the officers said they were reporting for duty on the instruction of their bosses, even though they had been paid their retrenchment packages.
The youth officers’ lawyer, Munyaradzi Gwisai confirmed yesterday that his clients had been rehired by the government.
“That’s true. We are now working on the deed of settlement before it is filed with the High Court for the registration of the consent order,” he said, referring further questions to his partner, only identified as Matika,who was not available for comment.
This is the latest in a series twists involving the youth officers, whom the opposition claim have been routinely used by the ruling Zanu PF to spearhead violent election campaigns.
Chinamasa nearly lost his job in 2016 after former President Robert Mugabe publicly chastised him for announcing plans to retrench the youth officers to cut the government’s wage bill, which is reportedly chewing over 90% of State revenues.
MDC-T president, Nelson Chamisa’s spokesman, Luke Tamborinyoka said the re-instatement of the youth officers would cause uneasiness in the opposition ranks.
“It tells you what is wrong with this election. We cannot have a government that pays party workers,” he said.
“It shows why we have so much discomfort around the forthcoming election.
“There is everything unethical and wrong with a government paying political party employees.”
Obert Gutu, spokesperson of an MDC-T breakaway faction led by former deputy president, Thokozani Khupe described the reinstated youth officers, as Zanu PF’s political commissars, who would be paid using taxpayers’ money.
“It’s Zanu PF’s way of accessing State funds to finance its election machinery.
“Just look at the timing, we are about three months away from an election; there is nothing legal or genuine about this decision.
“It is a political decision meant to benefit Zanu PF. Unfortunately for them we can see through their shenanigans,” he said.
People’s Democratic Party spokesperson, Jacob Mafume said Mnangagwa had reverted to Zanu PF’s default mode in the face of an electoral humiliation.
“It shows you nothing has changed. These youths have been used as merchants of violence and terror,” he said.
“They obviously have one purpose, to frog-march citizens to the voting stations especially in the rural areas and intimidate opposition supporters from voting.”
Kurauone Chihwayi, spokesperson for the Welshman Ncube-led MDC, said Zimbabweans were dealing with “habitual liars and renowned hypocrites”.
“The Zanu PF train indicates left and turns right. The return of youth officers will trigger an upsurge in political violence before and during the 2018 elections,” he said.
Early this week, NewsDay reported that the government had embarked on a massive cull of its workforce retrenching low-level employees, who have been holding positions “without the requisite qualifications”.