KELVIN MBEWE, Lusaka
ACCORDING to Jared Diamond, an American author of a book called Guns, germs and Steel, Africa’s underdevelopment in comparison to other continents is as a result of late discovery of farming techniques and other necessities.He takes the reader back to the Iron Age when he says,
“While Africans were chasing after animals with spears, bow and arrows and fruit gathering, Europeans were learning new farming methods.
They preserved their produce and moved on to other great discoveries such as learning mathematics and literature. Africa was still in the dark.”
Could this late discovery of essentials be the reason Africans, especially Zambians, are still not good with time management?
In Zambia today, very few people keep time, and events such as weddings, meetings, work can testify to this.
Rachel Ngoma, a Lusaka resident, agrees with Mr Diamond’s philosophy that bad time management is the reason Africa is lagging behind in development.
“It is very disheartening to always wait for people. Time is money, I spent two years in the United Kingdom and the first six months was a disaster for me because I would always be late and I would be turned away because of the culture I had adopted from Zambia,” she said.
Ms Ngoma said she adjusted her time management skills in her last one year six months in the UK but found the trend in Zambia when she came back.
“In the European world people get things done and you can track your progress. Back home, it’s different; time is not regarded,” she said.
Recently Lusaka Province Minister Bowman Lusambo sent a strong message to late coming civil servants by turning away 45 workers who came late for work.
He came early to his work place (Lusaka Provincial Administration) to monitor the situation in terms of late-coming and he came face to face with the culprits at the gate.
Mr Lusambo revealed that the late-comers would get a deduction from their salaries for a day’s worth of pay.
“This morning I sent away around 45 civil servants at the Lusaka Provincial Administration for reporting late for work. I personally closed the main gate at exactly 08:00 hours and chased everyone who reported after that,” he said.
He said he would write to the Ministry of Finance to deduct a day’s wage from the salaries of the 45 public service workers whom he sent home.
“Civil service guidelines stipulate that work starts at 08:00 hours but it is worrying that some civil servants report for work late around 09:00 hours, which frustrates the delivery of public services to our people and for me this is tantamount to stealing public funds,” he said.
A concerned citizen, Godfrey Chulu, advised Mr Lusambo to extend such action to other public offices.
“There are a lot of civil servants who are getting free money. If what Mr Lusambo did at provincial administration was extended to other government offices, three quarters of civil servants would have been sent away,” he said.
Mr Chulu’s tenant is a civil servant whom he says reports for work and then goes back home to spend the rest of the day there.
And not too long ago, Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA) Commissioner General Kingsley Chanda locked more than 50 employees out of the ‘Revenue House’ for reporting late for work.
Mr Chanda challenged the employees to join the private sector as he would not allow them to report for work any time they wanted and he would also not allow them to knock off from work any time.
Mr Chanda noted that the work culture at ZRA should change, not only in ZRA but in all government institutions, as this is the only way Government will effectively deliver service and development.
And in an interview, Civil Servants and Allied Workers Union of Zambia (CSAWUZ) president Davy Chiyobe said that time keeping has always been an issue among civil servants.
Mr Chiyobe said civil servants have continued to report for work late despite CSAWUZ having conducted workshops and meetings to encourage them to report and knock off on time.
“There is a problem in the public service. There are rules and regulations in any employment contract but many civil servants have chosen to ignore what is in their employment contract.”
He said late coming and knocking off early has affected service delivery in the country.
“No union leader can defend such an attitude by a civil servant,” he said.
Mr Chiyobe, however, said lack of motivation can also be cited as a problem that causes civil servants to report for work late.
“Lack of motivation should not, however, be a scapegoat but on the other side motivation is very important.
“It can not only be salaries but there are a lot of things that can be done to motivate civil servants such as giving them essentials such as land, accommodation or awards,” he said.
KELVIN MBEWE, Lusaka