Zimbabwe Bank Workers Demand Fair Pay and Transparency

Employees of state-owned financial group march to headquarters to deliver petition

by Motoni Olodun

Zimbabwe’s banking sector is facing a wave of protests from workers who are unhappy with their low salaries, poor working conditions, and alleged corruption at the top management level. The latest demonstration took place on Tuesday in Harare, where employees of AFC Holdings, a state-owned financial services group, marched to the company’s headquarters to deliver a petition.

AFC Holdings, formerly Agribank, was rebranded in 2021 as part of a government initiative to transform the agricultural lender into a diversified and profitable entity. The group comprises the AFC Land and Development Bank, AFC Commercial Bank, AFC Leasing Company, and AFC Insurance Company.

However, according to the Zimbabwe Banks and Allied Workers Union (ZIBAWU), which organized the protest, the rebranding has not improved the welfare of the workers or the performance of the group. Instead, the union accuses the group’s chief executive officer, Kenny Chitando, of mismanaging the company, scrapping some of the workers’ allowances, and engaging in dubious procurement deals.

“We are worried as workers of Zimbabwe and as representatives of workers of AFC, in that ever since the new CEO Mr Kenny Chitando came, we have seen things going downwards,” ZIBAWU secretary general Peter Mutasa told journalists during the demonstration.

Mutasa said that Chitando had widened the gap between the executives and the non-managerial staff, who earn an average of US$200 per month, while the top managers enjoy lavish perks such as expensive vehicles, entertainment allowances, school fees at elite schools and security allowances.

He also alleged that Chitando had violated the group’s procurement policy by awarding contracts to his relatives and friends and spending over US$500,000 to renovate a leased property.

The union demanded that the government, which owns 100% of AFC Holdings through the finance and agriculture ministries, intervene and address the workers’ grievances. It also called for an independent audit of the group’s finances and operations, and the reinstatement of four non-executive directors who were fired by the Ministry of Agriculture without consulting the Ministry of Finance.

The workers’ protest comes at a time when Zimbabwe’s banking sector is facing multiple challenges, such as low capitalization, high non-performing loans, currency instability, and low public confidence. According to the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, the sector recorded an aggregate profit of $503.13 billion in 2022, a 748.59% increase from the previous year, but mainly driven by non-cash income such as revaluation and fair value adjustments.

The sector is also grappling with a skills shortage, as many qualified and experienced bankers have left the country for better opportunities elsewhere. ZIBAWU reports that 75% of jobs in the sector have been lost since the beginning of the millennium, due to a combination of accelerated digitization and socio-political challenges facing the nation.

Despite the difficulties, some analysts believe that the sector has the potential to recover and contribute to the country’s economic growth if the government implements sound policies and reforms that foster stability, transparency, and accountability.

Source: New Zimbabwe


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