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Civil servants get forex bonuses, decry high bank charges

Civil servants’ representatives are generally excited that their members have started withdrawing their US dollar bonuses, but are upset that some banks are deducting significant bank charges despite the instruction that such accrued charges should not be deducted from bonuses.

These are bank charges of anything between US$100 and US$200 on accounts that were opened last year when Government was paying its workers a cushioning allowance in foreign currency.  The account holders then retained the accounts although there was no money in them and the banks continued to levy charges, only collecting these when the bonus money arrived.

The levying of accrued bank charges is despite communication from the Ministry of Finance to the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe last week that there should be no backdating of bank charges.

In an interview yesterday, Zimbabwe Teachers’ Association (Zimta) chief executive officer Dr Sifiso Ndlovu said while their members were getting their US dollar bonuses, the charges needed to be removed altogether since the forex bonus is a once-off cushion from President Mnangagwa.

“What I have gathered is that a number of banks have released the US dollars and people are getting it,” he said.

“But I heard that some of the money has been chewed by bank charges, which I think should not be an issue since this was a once-off payment. The bank charges are the downside to the excitement we have over the US dollar bonuses.

“The Finance and Economic Development Minister (Professor Mthuli Ncube) said he would look into the issue of bank charges and we duly call upon him to do so, so that civil servants take home all their money.”

Permanent Secretary for Finance and Economic Development Mr Mr Guvamatanga last night said the ministry sent communication to the Reserve Bank last week directing that banks should not backdate bank charges.

“Some of the foreign currency accounts were opened last year when Government was paying some US dollar incentives to civil servants.

“The accounts remained open and since then, they have been accruing bank charges. Now, some greedy banks want to backdate the charges to last year, but we have directed them not to backdate the charges,” said Mr Guvamatanga.

He added that some banks were lying to their clients that they had not yet received foreign currency from the Reserve Bank, for as yet unknown reasons.

A comprehensive statement on the payment of US dollar bonuses is expected from the Ministry of Finance today.  Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Minister Professor Paul Mavima told The Herald last night that the payment of US dollar bonuses was on-going although some employees have challenges with their foreign currency accounts.

“By and large, the withdrawal of US dollar bonuses is going on smoothly,” said Prof Mavima.

“But I have to say that the demand for cash is quite high and you see long queues for cash at banks. However, this is a good challenge.

“We urge banks to avail as much cash as possible to civil servants at one go, so that they minimise the number of times that people go to the bank to save transport costs.”

President Mnangagwa decided on a once-off payment of US dollar bonuses for civil servants and Government pensioners to cushion them from the fluctuating exchange rates, which eroded the value of their earnings. Government says paying bonuses in US dollars was ideal to ensure that they don’t take their earnings to the parallel market to buy forex, a move that would erode their earnings.

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