By Andile Tshuma In BULAWAYO 

IN a move meant to cushion civil servants and also boost their morale, the government will from this month pay civil servants Covid-19 risk allowances in hard United States of America dollars, with pensioners also set to benefit from the facility. 

In a circular dated January 4, the Public Service Commission (PSC) instructed the Salary Services Bureau (SSB) to pay government workers USS$75 and pensioners US$30 in hard currency.

The allowances were introduced in August 2020 and paid out in local currency using the official exchange rate.

“Treasury committed to pay the Covid-19 risk allowance in hard currency of US$75 and US$30 to civil servants and pensioners respectively. Please be advised that this payment should benefit from the banking arrangements used for processing of the 2021 bonus payments. You are required to effect the above changes effective 1 January 2022,” reads part of the letter from PSC to SSB. 

Teachers unions welcomed the reinstatement of the hard currency allowances as necessary to alleviate the plight of government workers. 

Zimbabwe Teachers Association (Zimta) president Sifiso Ndlovu said the teacher’s representative organisation would continue negotiating for more allowance reviews.

“We received official communication from the employer on the Covid-19 risk allowances which we expect to start receiving with effect from this month.

“This is a very welcome development for all employees under the Public Service Commission, especially those of us in the education sector,” Ndlovu said. 

“We applaud the government for the efforts and for resuming this Covid-19 risk allowance as it will indeed go a long way in meeting some of the costs that are incurred in this new normal. We hope that this money will be accessible in hard currency as promised, but have faith considering the bonuses which were recently paid out in forex.”

He said teachers were still calling for salary increments despite the latest development of Covid-19 allowances. 

“While we appreciate this gesture, we still maintain that salaries need a review, and civil servants need transport allowances to be reviewed and for them to be also paid out in hard currency as it is very difficult to get transport payable in local currency, especially for teachers who have to travel to the rural areas for work,” Ndlovu said further.

Apex Council chairperson Cecilia Alexander said she had seen the letter, but was yet to formally receive official communication on the matter. 

She said the Apex Council would have a meeting with all civil servants representatives next week to discuss the agenda of cost of living allowances (Cola). 

“I have also seen the document, but I am not able to confirm at the moment as no official communication has been made to my office.  However, we are meeting next week for cost of living allowances, so that is where a number of issues and grievances are set to be tabled,” Alexander said.