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Zimbabwe's Controversial Marange Diamonds Fund Civil Service Pay Raise

Finance Minister Tendai Biti cautioned that if the Ministry of Mines does not keep releasing diamond revenues to the Treasury to cover higher state worker wages, public salaries will revert to previous levels

Revenues from Zimbabwe's controversial Marange diamond field have been tapped to fund pay increases for civil servants which materialized early this week, sources including Mines Minister Obert Mpofu said on Tuesday.

Mpofu said the government through the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation released funds to the Treasury recently which went to pay for salary increases that were paid to workers on Tuesday after reflecting in account advisories on Monday.

The mines minister declined to reveal how much money came from the Marange field, but sources said the Mining Development Corporation, agent for the government in joint ventures with companies working the field, paid US$27 million into the Treasury.

Mpofu said the government would continue to draw on diamond revenues to fund civil service salaries and other state activities.

President Robert Mugabe appeared to have have gotten his way on boosting salaries of civil servant, having promised to do so earlier this year without previously consulting with Finance Minister Tendai Biti, who has long said the government could not afford it.

But it also appeared that the finance minister's pressure on the ZANU-PF side of the government to increase transparency as to revenues from Marange also paid off.

Biti cautioned however that if the Mines Ministry does not keep releasing revenues to the Treasury to cover higher state worker pay, salaries will revert to previous levels.

Civil servants told VOA they were paid US$90 to US$100 more this month. Most have been making less than US$200 a month since early 2009 when the power sharing government of national unity was launched.

Zimbabwe Teachers Association Chief Executive Sifiso Ndlovu said his members saw pay increases Tuesday so his organization is focusing on 2012 salary objectives.

But one Bulawayo teacher, speaking on condition he not be identified, said pay levels remained well below the poverty line of US$502 for a family of five.

Harare economist John Robertson said that despite the influx of diamond revenues, the government may still need to cut spending elsewhere to afford the pay hikes.

Social commentator Liberty Bhebhe said the pay increases laid bare divisions in the government as the two formations of the Movement for Democratic Change and ZANU-PF "have fundamental differences in dealing with some of these issues.”

The country is headed for elections, most likely in mid-2012.

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