Dear Family and Friends,
It’s a time of excesses in Zimbabwe: big storms, big reptiles and monstrously big pay packets that have left us wide eyed and open mouthed in disbelief and disgust.
When the fourth black mamba in a few weeks slithered through the undergrowth of my garden the other day, it didn’t take long to work out why there are so many snakes this year. Its been a season of big storms which have often been so intense that everyone’s saying they’ve never seen such violent weather. Torrential rain and fierce wind at the start of the week deposited 75mm (three inches) of rain in an hour and another 25mm overnight leaving everything in my neighbourhood sodden and saturated. After a couple of weeks of very heavy storms, everything is waterlogged, flushing out rodents, reptiles and burrowing creatures. Exacerbating the snake problem is the ever increasing lack of habitat as the annual, uncontrolled urban land grab spreads further and further. It’s apparently diplomatically correct to call this ‘self apportioned plots’ or ‘peri-urban agriculture’ but in reality it’s just a free for all slash and burn. Widespread tree cutting and cultivation of open spaces, green belts and wetlands is now having a direct impact on urban areas. Streams are filling with silt and drying up, wetlands are disappearing and with nowhere else to go, mambas, cobras and pythons are moving in.
So with one eye on where the slithery things are, attention turns to the snakes in the public sector and parastatals who have been awarding themselves massive salaries. While the MDC and Zanu PF were fully occupied fighting for power and positions in the 2009 – 2013 unity government, it seems an orgy of pocket filling has been going on right under their very noses.
The first big scandal came before Christmas when we heard that the CEO of ZBC was earning 40,000 US dollars a month. At a time when civil servants such as teachers are earning around 500 dollars a month, this forty thousand salary had everyone agog. When the scandal came to light the ZBC CEO was suspended on full pay, and now he has no doubt got his feet up and is sitting watching telly all day without a care in the world, knowing that he’s getting paid every day for doing nothing. Although we do wonder if he’s watching the boring propaganda on ZBC TV or if he’s tuned in to DSTV, the South African satellite TV.
Just when we’d stopped gossiping about the ZBC big earner, we realised that was chicken feed compared to the obscene pay packets of the senior management of the public sector medical aid society. It turns out that Mr Dube, the CEO of Premier Service Medical Aid Society (PSMAS), has been earning a basic monthly salary of US$230,000 while thirteen other members of their senior management had been getting
$870,000 between them every month. This comes at a time when fee paying members of PSMAS are having to pay cash for X rays, scans, blood tests and other services because their medical aid cards are being rejected for amounts as little as $40. How do you turn away a pensioner who can’t pay for a simple blood test when the CEO’s salary is enough to pay 500 teachers a month?
Hot on the heels of that scandal came press reports that the eighteen man management team in charge of Harare’s municipal affairs are taking home just under $500,000 a month. The Town Clerk who has now been suspended, presumably on full pay, was earning $37,000 a month while the council employees who are cleaning the streets, emptying dustbins and doing other unsavoury things like unblocking sewer pipes are earning around two hundred dollars a month.
Everyone is convinced these three monster pay packets are the tip of a giant iceberg and are hoping that the whistleblowers keep going, exposing these obscene excesses that are surely the stuff that revolutions are made of. Until next time, thanks for reading, love cathy. 31st January 2014.
Copyright Cathy Buckle.
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