BY TATENDA CHITAGU
THE Progressive Teachers’ Union in Zimbabwe (PTUZ) has described the government’s housing scheme launched last year as a rip-off equivalent to a money-lending scheme.
The housing scheme is part of the Government Employees Mutual Savings (Gems) project mooted in February last year.
Treasury has allegedly provided $75 million as seed capital for Gems, of which $13,7m has been allocated for teacher housing scheme projects.
But PTUZ said the housing scheme was a scam meant to fleece civil servants of their hard-earned money.
The Gems loans allegedly cover a broad spectrum such as home improvement, solar electrification, borehole installation, property acquisition, livestock rearing, among many other things.
“While teachers have over a long period lobbied for housing schemes, it would seem that the one mooted by government is not in the best interests of teachers,” PTUZ president Takavafira Zhou said.
“If government could give extensive farms to individuals, why is it failing to give land for stands ranging from 1 000 to 2 000 square metres to teachers across the country?
“As much as the teacher housing scheme envisages beneficiaries to get between $100 000 and $200 000, in practice it seems this is impossible. The $13,7m allocated to more than 136 000 teachers in the Primary and Secondary Education ministry amounts to about $125 per teacher, which in essence can only buy a loaf of bread. Even if teachers were to get $100 000 or $200 000, can it really build a house, we wonder?”
He added: “The housing scheme is in essence a product of government unilateralism. Government has also been silent on monthly contributions from willing teachers at 2,5% of gross salary for three months after which a member wishing to access loans submits an application through the ministry.
“Above all, submission of application is no guarantee of getting a loan. Imagine how much government would have harvested over three months if 136 000 teachers contribute 2,5% of their gross salary?”
Zhou added that the repayment period was shrouded in mystery and was meant to keep teachers in a vicious cycle of poverty.
“It is sad that instead of paying teachers a living wage or restoring their purchasing power parity to pre-October 2018 level, government is busy planning to further impoverish teachers through indebtedness. It is not clear whether the money is disbursed at ministerial
or at the national steering committee level, which in addition to Public Service Commission, includes members from the Office of the President and Cabinet as well as from Treasury,” Zhou said, adding that previous teacher housing schemes had folded because of corruption.
Primary and Secondary Education minister Cain Mathema was not picking calls.
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