CIVIL servants and Government pensioners have started receiving US$75 and US$30 Covid-19 relief allowances respectively as part of an initiative to cushion them from skyrocketing prices of goods.
Sunday News understands civil servants started receiving messages from their respective banks on Thursday notifying them about the US dollar deposits. Most civil servants received US$150 for June and July. Speaking to Sunday News yesterday, Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Minister Professor Paul Mavima confirmed that the funds have been disbursed, with beneficiaries expected to have all received their dues by the end of the month.
“People have started receiving their monies and we expect that it should have been distributed to the first batch of people by the end of this month,” Prof Mavima said.
However, some of the civil servants who have received the notifications said they were still in the dark on how to use it after their banks indicated they were still waiting for a directive from Government. Banks opened Nostro accounts for the civil servants but Government indicated the money would not be withdrawn in physical notes but through electronic cards that will be used to buy in shops.
“When I went to the bank to enquire, I was told that the money cannot be withdrawn and neither has the bank come up with separate ATM cards. The bank said at the moment it’s either we wait for further clarification or if you want to use the money you can convert it to Zim dollars at interbank rate and it will be deposited into the Zim dollar account,” said a civil servant who declined to be named.
Prof Mavima, however, said as of now there was no special arrangement made with retailers about how the allowances, which are not paid out to recipients in cash, will be used to purchase goods from retail outlets.
“There is no special arrangement with retailers because they are already using plastic money and we expect the same to continue with this arrangement. Banks are already in the process of issuing cards for people to be able to use,” he said.
Although Apex Council chair Mrs Cecil Alexander could not be reached for a comment yesterday, Zimbabwe Teachers Association (Zimta) chief executive officer Dr Sifiso Ndlovu said they were still waiting for the Government to work out modalities around how the funds would be used.
“From an association perspective information on how the allowances can be used in retail outlets has not been shared with us,” he said.
Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers (CZR) president Mr Denford Mutashu told Sunday News that retailers were still waiting for direction from Government on how the scheme would work, as it was a new system that everyone was trying to come to grips with.
“We are yet to receive any clarity on that issue but we expect that by the time that the disbursement is done fully, Government would have given direction on how it will work. This is basically a first for everyone so more still needs to be done in terms of mapping how it all works,” he said.
More joy might be on the way for civil servants and the public in general, as Mr Mutashu said they were encouraged by signs that pointed to a halt in price increases, with indications that stabilisation had been achieved because of fiscal measures taken by the Government.
“What is encouraging is that price escalation has been curtailed and prices have stabilised due to a number of interventions undertaken by authorities like curtailing the level of money supply in the country.
“We expect that prices for goods have reached their ceiling and should they go beyond this ceiling then they would not be affordable for anyone. Prices have stabilised and if you look at things like sugar, the increases have been at a minimal,” he said.
Mr Mutashu added that product availability also seems to have improved, with basic goods that were scarce returning to the shelves.
“Another thing that has been improved is product availability as well. There is now a better availability of most basic goods with the exception perhaps of the subsidised mealie-meal but even on the front we expect Government to be taking measures that will also help improve its availability,” he said.