Civil servants in Zimbabwe began an indefinite strike on Wednesday, demanding a pay hike of at least 150% and action against militants targeting teachers in rural areas.
The public sector industrial action is particularly strong amongst teachers, who have borne the brunt of the violence.
But the government in Harare insisted it had no spare resources to fund an increase in civil servant pay.
“We are all aware of the situation of the civil servants,” said Samuel Sipepa-Nkomo, Zimbabwe’s acting finance minister. “The Cabinet is willing to address the situation of civil service but you must appreciate that for that to happen you must have money in the treasury. It must be sustainable.”
Sipepa-Nkomo said Harare was hoping to flush out so-called “ghost workers”, teachers who were on the books — and even on the premises — but who were not actually teaching, before conducting a review of salaries.
Raymond Majongwe, secretary general of the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe responded to the question of available resources, saying: “It is not our business to manage the economy. [Zimbabwe has] diamonds, uranium and so many minerals. Where is that money going? They are busy enriching themselves at our expense.” This was a reference to media reports that government had acquired 140 top-of-the-range vehicles for ministers and top officials earlier this month.
Earlier this year, President Robert Mugabe promised all civil servants a 100% pay increase using proceeds from sales of diamonds. — Sapa-dpa