Zimbabwe’s three ruling party principals have ordered Finance Minister Tendai Biti to award civil servants a pay increase as promised by President Robert Mugabe.
The Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe meanwhile has warned that it will call a crippling strike if no increase in pay for its members is forthcoming.
Sources said President Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara met on Friday and agreed that Biti should look for funds to boost pay of state employees who want a monthly living wage of US$502.
The principals did not suggest where the finance minister is to find such funds. But sources said indications are that the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority collected US$619 million in the first quarter of the year, exceeding its target by 11 percent.
President Mugabe and Biti have traded barbs in recent days over the salary increase which Mr. Mugabe promised civil servants would be in place by June. Mr. Mugabe has accused Biti of blocking the increase. But Biti says the government is not in a position to raise salaries – unless revenues from the Marange diamond field increase.
Parliamentary Budget Committee Chairman Paddington Zhanda said Biti must tap the country's mineral resources to increase compensation of state workers.
PTUZ General Secretary Raymond Majongwe said the government should brace for a strike if civil servant demands are not met. “We have given the government a 14-day ultimatum to pay us and we hope they will do so before we go on strike,” said Majongwe.
Economist Eric Bloch said the cornered finance minister may have to make budget cuts elsewhere to be able to increase civil service salaries. Civil service pay accounts for 70 percent of government expenditures with the nation on a shoe-string budget.