Zimbabwean Public Service Minister Eliphas Mukonoweshuro said Monday that his government had no money to pay 200,000 striking civil servants the salary increases they were demanding. On Friday, 5 Feb, the Zimbabwe Public Service Association (ZPSA), which represents civil servants, announced an indefinite strike to press their demands for a hike in pay. "It is not unwillingness on the part of the government. It is simply the lack of fiscal capacity on our part," Mukonoweshuro said, expressing sympathy with the workers, most of whom are teachers.
The civil servants are demanding that the salary of the lowest-paid workers be increased from $120 a month to $630 a month. The power-sharing government of President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has offered to increase their wages to $122 in February, rising to $134 in April. "Even if they ask for 300 dollars for the least paid, that would bring the salary bill to 1.3 billion dollars, which is more than the annual budget of the government," Mukonoweshuro explained.
Raymond Majongwe, secretary-general of the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe, ruled out a return to work, saying: "Let them sell diamonds and we can share that wealth instead of it being enjoyed by a few individuals." Majongwe was referring to the Chiadzwa diamond field in eastern Zimbabwe, which the state seized from a British mining company in 2006. There are 300,000 carats of raw diamonds taken from them that have recently “gone missing”. The quantity of diamonds mined by the government since then is unknown but geologists say the alluvial diamond site is the largest find in a century. Click here to read more about the strike.