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Zimbabwe Diamonds Can't Meet All Budget Needs, ZANU-PF Cautions

ZANU-PF said Finance Minister Tendai Biti and Labor Minister Lucia Matibenga, both of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's MDC formation, should find sustainable ways to boost state worker salaries

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party has dismissed as utopian and unsustainable proposals by the co-governing Movement for Democratic Change for the country to tap diamond revenues from the Marange more deeply to meet pay demands by civil servants who have called a national strike on Thursday.

ZANU-PF said Finance Minister Tendai Biti and Labor Minister Lucia Matibenga, both of them officials of the MDC formation led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, have failed to find sustainable ways of increasing the salaries of agitated civil servants.

ZANU-PF spokesman Rugare Gumbo noted that Marange diamond revenues were tapped once already last year to cover a civil servant pay increase.

Gumbo said the MDC should look for funds from the Western nations that have imposed sanctions on President Robert Mugabe and scores of ZANU-PF officials.

But Thabitha Khumalo, a spokeswoman for the Tsvangirai MDC, said Zimbabwe must look to diamond revenues to cover the cost of paying state workers a living wage.

Nhlanhla Dube of the Welshman Ncube-led MDC said the country has enough resources to increase salaries of public workers.

Parliamentary Budget Committee Chairman Paddy Zhanda argued however that revenues from diamonds cannot cover salary increases.

Meanwhile, US Ambassador to Zimbabwe Charles Ray told reporters in Marondera, Mashonaland East province, that Mbada Diamonds and Marange Resources, both involved in developing the Marange diamond field, have been placed under American sanctions because of their ownership and for no other reason.

He noted that the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation, which holds a 50 percent stake in both enterprises, had been on the US sanctions list for some time.

Though the Kimberley Process has cleared the way for the export sale of diamonds from the Marange field, the US imposition of sanctions on the two companies has imposed a formidable obstacle to the sale of their diamonds into the US marketplace.