Civil servants are up in arms over a new strict dress code to be enforced by the Zimbabwe government.
The dress code includes barring female workers from wearing tight trousers, sleeveless tops or dresses as well as miniskirts, and men also being barred from wearing what government deems indecent.
And government’s fashion police have not restricted the ban to civil servants only; even visitors to government buildings deemed to be inappropriately dressed are being turned away.
“The Public Service Commission has noted with concern the deteriorating standard of dress by members of the public service and has directed that the following standards of dress be maintained by members during the course of their duties in order to uphold the dignity and formality expected of them,” read a statement by the Public Service Commission’s human resources department.
“Despite the complexity of women’s fashions, women should put on correspondingly high standards of dress.
“The following items are not acceptable when reporting for work: sleeveless tops, sleeveless dresses, strapped dresses or blouses, tops that have low necklines, tight fitting trousers, jeans, see-through garments and miniskirts.”
The directive has raised the ire of many women, whose love for fashion belies the deteriorating state of the economy.
“This is an outrage,” said one female civil servant whose tight-fitting outfit was deemed “too revealing” by government officials.
“How do they expect me to hike 45km back home to Norton just to change into something they feel is more acceptable?
“These are sex perverts who can’t control their feelings! I think there is a need for people to accept that we live in a global village.”
Another female civil servant said the new directive showed the authors were “old and out of touch”.
“Some of these top civil servants are caught up in a time warp and have failed to move with the times,” she fumed. “How do they expect us to dress like we are in the middle ages or as nuns!”
But less worldly bystanders welcomed the move.
“I think this is very good on the part of government,” said street preacher Felix Chingombe of the Baptist Church. “Some of the dressing we were seeing is very ungodly. Some women wear very tight clothes; one can even count the bumps on her behind.”
Men have not been let off the directive either. Says the circular on men: “Dress must include collar and tie. There is no objection to wearing tailored safari suits with alternative dress being suits or sports jackets for blazers.”
“On formal occasions to which members are invited as representatives of their ministries, suits with collar and tie will be worn. Exceptions are only at the discretion of heads of departments.
“Normal standards of dress may be departed from when working in rural areas when duties require different considerations. It is however, advisable for men to keep jackets in their offices in case they are called to meetings or other formal occasions unexpectedly.
“In the case of men, open sandals should only be worn for medical reasons and it is necessary for the respective heads of departments to request the medical certificates of the affected members,” the circular read, adding that no tennis shoes or sneakers are allowed.
Said an irate Davison Ratani, whose tight shorts saw him being shooed out of a government department: “Really? Is this what we have reduced ourselves to? There are a lot of more pressing issues of state which need addressing and all the government can think of is how we dress?
“This just shows they have run out of ideas on how to correct the mess they have put the country into and are looking for anything and everything to keep themselves occupied.”
Ratani said he was in the government block to pay up his outstanding income tax, and was thankful he had been kicked out.
“Well, they have to come looking for me because I most certainly am not coming back here,” he said.
Social commentator Mguni Maenzanise said most probably government was keen to maintain good and cordial working relations between workmates, and not promote dressing which gave rise to sexual harassment or fuelled sexual relations.
“Remember, one of the highest-ranking government officers took his secretary in the typing pool for a wife; so maybe they do not want these women to be sexual targets of hungry deprived senior officials in government ministries,” said Maenzanise – hinting at “Gucci Grace” Mugabe, who was once a typist in the president’s office.