Zimbabwean public servants are angry that the government appears to be reneging on its recent promise to award them a salary increase next month.
Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa and Public Services Minister Nicholas Goche said last month that the government had struck a salary increment deal with representatives of the country's more than 200?000 public servants.
But the representatives complained this week that the national joint negotiating council still had to meet to work out the finer details of the new salary structure announced by Chinamasa and Goche.
On Wednesday the College Lecturers Association, the Public Service Union and the Zimbabwe Teachers Association, among others, wrote to the council seeking an urgent meeting with government representatives.
The unions specifically requested meetings with Chinamasa, Goche and Mariyawanda Nzhuwa, the chairperson of the public service commission, to hash out the implementation of the promised increases.
"We are still stagnating," said Sifiso Ndlovu, the chief executive officer of the Zimbabwe Teachers Association, the largest public servants union in the country. But we are pressing hard for a meeting to settle the issue."
"We have written to the government through negotiating council chairperson [Nelson] Samburena [to request] that we hold a meeting to agree to the implementation of the deal," said Ndlovu. "It is good to get a public announcement from politicians on the issue, but we now urgently need a technical response."
He said that public servants' representatives had been battling to pin down Chinamasa, Goche and Nzhuwa for a meeting to sign the deal, raising speculation that the government does not have the finances to fulfill its promise.
"Our members are angry, but we hope government representatives will find the time to meet us to finalise the issue before April salaries are effected. Our worry is that time is running out," Ndlovu said.
Raymond Majongwe, the secretary of the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe, agreed, saying negotiators should meet as a matter of urgency.
"A promise is a credit," he said. "The government must come clean on this issue."
Chinamasa, Goche and Nzhuwa were not immediately available for comment. But in his ministerial statement to Parliament two weeks ago, Chinamasa avoided commenting on the promised public servant salary hike, apart from saying that the government had only $500?000 worth of gold reserves in the coffers of the central bank.
Chinamasa was put on the spot in Parliament during a question-and- answer session after opposition legislators demanded to know whether the government would honour its pledge on salaries.
"We are not yet in April," Chinamasa responded tersely.