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Agitated Zimbabwe Civil Servants to Down Tools Next Tuesday

Zimbabwe’s agitated civil servants have resolved to stage an hour-long national strike next Tuesday protesting the government's failure to raise their salaries.

The government employees, demanding a basic salary of at least $564 for the lowest paid worker, reacted angrily to Finance Minister Tendai Biti’s move Wednesday to slash the country’s $4 billion budget due to diminishing revenues.

Sifiso Ndlovu, a member of the state workers’ negotiating arm – the Apex Council – said the civil servants, who held a crisis meeting Thursday in Harare, agreed to leave their work stations for an hour next Tuesday protesting the downgrading of the budget to $3.6 billion, thereby removing any chances of a pay rise.

Ndlovu said the Apex Council also resolved to start engaging members before going on a fully-fledged national industrial action since the current school term is about to come to an end.

Biti slashed his 2012 budget projections citing poor agricultural production, policy inconsistencies and slow returns in the mining sector, especially diamond revenues.

Ndlovu said Biti has to source money for raising salaries of civil servants. “The protests next week are an indication that we want salary increases even if the government is failing to meet revenue targets,” said Ndlovu.

The budget was expected to be boosted by a $600 million windfall from diamond mining in the controversial Marange field, now widely considered by critics as a curse to the Southern African nation.

Diamond mining companies remitted only $41.6 million between January and June instead of $123 million largely due to what Biti says is lack of transparency and accountability in Marange.