by Alagi Yoro Jallow
MAMUDU: A generation of elders that enjoyed everything on purpose ran down everything then proclaimed itself a lost generation. Look at that generation that came after the founding fathers. Interrogate their contributions to national and socio-economic development and correlate their efforts with they creamed off the Gambia. Should that still be called a lost generation or a wasteful generation? I am even thinking. In 2018/19, the government spent GMD 230 million on perdiem and travel allowances for senior civil and public servants in 12 months.
Mamudu: There is gloom everywhere. Whenever the country is ready to write its history, it will not forget this era of political leaders without conscience and of docile citizens never really interested in casting away their chains. It will be a history of impotent oaths and broken (Laahidoo) promises. It will be an elaborate narrative, tattooed with ugly punctuations of wickedness. And how many Presidents do not care if this sin captured forever? How many still see their workers as civil servants and public servants? How many consider them as slaves without a choice?
Mamudu: Our hearts bled when Fatu Camara, a prominent female journalist, and proprietor of FatuNetwork PR Service, lamented and published on her Facebook page the minimum low rate total emolument of a police officer earning less than $100 per month. She wailed in compassion, pain, and suffering from a police officer’s disproportionate low pay in her wall, and it reads: “Can you imagine a 1st class Police Constable gets D1,500 travel allowance, D150 rent allowance and a salary of D1,758? So, after all the deductions, he goes with only D2,508 ($50) at the end of each month. Now, this is an emergency, and it needs to be reviewed. Ms. Camara added, “Honestly, the government needs to cut costs somewhere and fix this issue ASAP urgently. What can anyone do with a house rent of D150 in the Gambia today?? I cried going through this I wish I can change this right now. Now I see why many keep hunting for per diem to subside their salaries,” concluded her Facebook post. Fatu decried and shared her feelings with the police officer.
Mamudu: This is total nonsense. How do you pay a police officer D150 rent allowance in the Greater Banjul Area? Which house goes for this amount? Where? The government wants police officers to rent apartments in the slums. How will corruption be eradicated when we can’t pay police officers well? Because I know they are just trying to survive. They have schools’ fees to pay and food to buy. A serious government should have offered at least one-night travel perdiem allowance rate paid to aides and advisors at the office of the President as housing allowance in the Greater Banjul Area to an entry-level police constable.
“Salarium” is the Latin root of the “salary” we talk about at the end of every month. That root word means “salt money.” It means money regularly paid out by ancient Rome to its soldiers as “allowance for the purchase of salt.” Its origin leaves no room for speculations as to its good essence. It is meant to sweeten lives after a period of hard work. Any employer who refuses his workers their pay has taken salt from the workers’ mouths. It has consequences.
Mamudu: “Slaves have duties, but they also enjoy rights which must be respected.” That line belongs to Professor Mwamba Cabakulu in his Dictionnaire des proverbes Africains what a somewhat healthy way of looking at the benefits helpless people can enjoy in healthy societies. But are these regular times? The Gambia of today is not in a move that can be called normal, and so, if civil servants work and they don’t get paid decent salary or wages, it shouldn’t attract any strong feelings. They have duties, but they do not have the right to be paid low salaries even when there is a government budget for the President’s office alone registered D31million increased allocation due, partly, to grow in staff at the Presidency. There is an increase in “Special Advisers” from four to six, a deputy Secretary-General, and allowances alone increasing from D1,402,010 in 2019, to the tune of D14,806,855 in 2020. They are slaves. Cabakulu is wrong with his thesis of slaves having rights. Is it not true that “a slave saves money to get married, and his master spends it?” Jean Norbert Vignonde, in a discussion of that Fon (Benin) proverb, asks: “How can you claim to possess something when you don’t exist yourself?” I am with him. That is the real world’s way. It is the law here that government workers exist to be seen only, like a dead, standing trees. Like slaves of yore in sugarcane plantations, their lips are eternally padlocked. They mustn’t ever open their mouths to say anything unless they are tired of working. That is the law. You break it at your peril.
Mamudu: The Gambia government is offering its workers chicken change of their monthly pay in the spirit of half a loaf is better than none. The situation across the country is horrible for public service workers. It is worse and indescribable where husband and wife are civil servants. A doctor friend told me he had had to deal with a friend who hinted twice at suicide. And this in Banjul. The senior civil servant had never faced what he is facing: He couldn’t feed his family and couldn’t pay his children’s school fees; he couldn’t pay NAWEC bills. His life and home are in utter darkness.
Mamudu: It is a hopeless situation. Those in service have no decent salary. Those who have retired have no dignified pension. In some cases, workers had taken bank repayable monthly. Banks do not want to know that the governments are not paying. Banks have consistently been debiting the accounts of defaulting loanees. Now, what is the dictionary meaning of bankruptcy? Is it the workers that are bankrupt or their employers or both? But the governments will not agree. They will insist they are trying their best. What best is there is not meeting one’s financial obligations? Mamudu: If anyone expects any miracle from the political class or presidents (outgoing and incoming), such will be grossly mistaken. The ones on the seat have shown that they have no magic wand to pay what has not been paid. The ones coming to take over are too overwhelmed even before the race starts to force to cough out any money. Someone said the various governments are also hiding behind the no-money situation to commit greater atrocities. Their incomes are not enough to pay salaries, yes, but what has been happening to the little income that has been coming?
So, what is the way out? We should consider the debate. Any solution, in my view, should be both long term and short term.
Have you heard of one? You couldn’t have because we are a nation of sulking and docile people. Or could it be that the workers are not on the streets because they receive other things from their tormentors, in-kind or in cash, not in addition to, but instead of, their fair pays?
Mamudu: There was no divide in our world. It was one happy universe of happy children. That was the real joy of the whole thing. Now that a gang of leaders is using the costume of democracy to flog our neighbors with hunger, we should all feel outraged. And we are. A denial of comfort to anyone is a denial to all.
Source: Culled from Alagi Yoro Jallow’s Facebook page