Civil servants and Government pensioners have started receiving US$75 and US$30 Covid-19 relief allowances, respectively as part of measures to cushion them from skyrocketing prices of goods.
Civil servants started receiving messages from respective banks on Thursday notifying them about the US dollar deposits. Most civil servants received US$150 for June and July.
In an interview, Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Minister Professor Paul Mavima confirmed that the allowances had been disbursed, with beneficiaries expected to have received their dues by the end of the month.
“People have started receiving their money 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 the Government.
Banks opened nostro accounts for civil servants and pensioners, but the Government indicated that the money would not be withdrawn in physical notes, but through electronic cards that will be used in shops.
“When I went to the bank to enquire, I was told that the money cannot be withdrawn and neither has the bank come up with separate ATM cards.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 is either they will wait for further clarification or if I wanted to use the money they could convert it to Zimbabwe dollars at the interbank rate and deposit it into the Zim dollar account,” said a civil servant who declined to be named.
Prof Mavima, however, said as of now there was no arrangement with retailers about how the allowances would be used to purchase goods. “There is no special arrangement with retailers because they are already using plastic money and we expect the same to continue with this arrangement,” he said.
Although Apex Council chair Mrs Cecilia Alexander could not be reached for comment 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.
Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers president Mr Denford Mutashu said retailers were still waiting for direction from the Government.
“We are yet to receive any clarity on that issue, but we expect that by the time that the disbursement is done fully, the 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.
“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.” Mr Mutashu said product availability seemed to be improving, with basic goods that were scarce returning to the shelves.