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Vexed Question of Civil Servant Salaries Embroils Zimbabwe Gov't Principals

  • Chris Gande

Negotiators for civil servants last week announced a deal that would give the lowest-paid state workers $253 a month - but it turned out the Cabinet had not approved the raise which has been blocked

A meeting Thursday between the three principals to Zimbabwe's shaky unity government and Finance Minister Tendai Biti failed to produce agreement on whether or how the government could afford to increase the salaries of civil servants.

Sources close to the talks involving President Robert Mugabe – who has been pressing for months for such a pay increase – Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara say they reached no conclusion on the issue.

Negotiators for civil servants last week announced a deal that would give the lowest-paid state workers $253 a month - but it turned out the Cabinet had not approved it.

ti is said to have told the three principals that the Treasury does not have the means to fund higher salaries as it has not been receiving revenues from the sale of diamonds from the Marange field in eastern Zimbabwe. He told the principals that they must also agree how to remove 75,000 so-called ghost workers from public payrolls.

President Mugabe was insistent Biti draw on $165 million remaining from an International Monetary Fund crisis adjustment grant of $527 million received in 2009.

Biti and Public Service Minister Eliphas Mukonoweshuro are now expected to brief the entire Cabinet on the fiscal situation next week.

Luke Tamborinyoka, a spokesman for Prime MInister Tsvangirai, told VOA Studio 7 reporter Blessing Zulu that the meeting was constructive.

Political analyst Earnest Mudzengi said there is more suffering in store for civil servants as the politicians at the head of the unity government continue to wrangle.

Meanwhile, a senior Tsvangirai MDC official said negotiators for the governing parties have agreed to remove "ghost workers" from public payrolls as soon as possible saving some US$20 million a month. Deputy Organizing Secretary Abednico Bhebhe said that his party's negotiators told the MDC standing committee that the government has compiled a list of unauthorized workers, many of them youth militia members.

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