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Zimbabwe Government Probes Road Project, 'Ghost Workers' on State Payroll

A 77-kilometer road project in Chegutu, Mashonaland West province, cost Zimbabwe Platinum Mines just US$19 million, so Prime Minister Tsvangirai wants to know why a 20-kilometer link should cost four times that amount

Zimbabwe's unity government is tackling waste and fraud ranging from a high-priced airport highway to "ghost workers" on state payrolls.

Political sources said Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has ordered a Cabinet probe into Local Government Minister Ignatious Chombo's handling of a project to improve the highway from Harare to its international airport, which the ministry has priced at US$80 million for the 20-kilometer link.

Engineering sources said a 77-kilometer road project in Chegutu, Mashonaland West province, undertaken by Zimbabwe Platinum Mines or Zimplats cost just US$19 million. So Mr. Tsvangirai wants to know why the Joshua Nkomo Expressway is going to cost so much more.

The Harare City Council, dominated by Mr. Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change, has tried to stop the project but met resistance from Chombo, sources said. Chombo could not be reached for comment and Council spokesman Leslie Gwindi, a Chombo ally, refused to comment.

Spokesman Nelson Chamisa of the Tsvangirai MDC formation told VOA Studio 7 reporter Blessing Zulu that Mr. Tsvangirai read city councilors the riot act.

Elsewhere, sources said a state audit to weed out "ghost workers" on state payrolls has identified 5,000 such employees in Masvingo province. Sources in the Public Services Ministry said 1,000 were registered as teachers, some at non-existent schools, while others had left state employment or died.

Public Services Minister Eliphas Mukonoweshuro told Studio 7 reporter Jonga Kandemiiri that his ministry will not release results from individual provinces, but will wait until the entire exercise has been completed.

But Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe General Secretary Raymond Majongwe said the audit has confirmed earlier union allegations.

In another matter, the PTUZ said two union members at Mount Selinda Mission in Chipinge, Manicaland province, were sentenced Wednesday to 12 months in prison after being convicted of beating up war veterans in 2008.

The union said its lawyers will file an appeal.