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Zimbabwean Government Triples Army Officer Pay Ahead Of Elections

The Zimbabwean government has increased military salaries by more than 300% in a move seen as buttressing army support in the approach to national elections.

Salaries of junior officers rose to Z$1.2 billion (US$600) a month from Z$400 million, irking other public employees including teachers, many of whom have been on strike since early January and who now receive some Z$400 million dollars a month. The union representing most teachers is demanding a base wage of Z$1.7 billion.

Military sources said the pay raise looked like an effort to mollify discontent within the military ahead of the March 29 presidential, general and local elections.

Observers said uncertainty as to the loyalty of the military increased with the entry of former finance minister Simba Makoni into the presidential race. The influential retired army major Kudzayi Mbudzi is said to be one of Makoni's key supporters.

Independent economist Rejoice Ngwenya told reporter Chris Gande of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the army pay hike will fuel inflation that has been officially pegged at over 100,000% - though some economists put it at twice that rate.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe....