26 September 2023

ZIMBABWE: President concedes on US dollar payments

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Zimbabwe’s President, Emmerson Mnangagwa has made what many observers see as a desperate offer in a last-minute bid to avert a catastrophic strike by Government workers.

The President said all Public Servants would get a 20 per cent salary raise and an incentive of US$175 ($A244) in foreign currency.

He made the offer a day after teachers, by far the most militant of public sector workers, downed tools on the first day of the new school year; they are demanding salaries of at least $US671 ($A936).

Currently, the lowest-paid teachers in Zimbabwe take home around the equivalent of $US60 ($A83.72) a month — the same average as other Government workers, including nurses, soldiers and police officers.

While members of the army and police are officially not allowed to strike, there have been numerous cases of corruption and theft linked to serving officers in the past year.

President Mnangagwa’s foreign currency offer flies in the face of the mid-term monetary policy review by Governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, John Mangudya who said the Government had no capacity to pay Public Servants’ salaries in foreign currency.

A week ago, Minister for Finance, Mthuli Ncube suggested that other incentives could be offered if workers took their salaries in the deteriorating Zimbabwean dollar, but teachers only increased calls for foreign currency-pegged pay.

While the latest offer falls short of union demands, other incentives have apparently been offered, including no school fees for the children of teachers and duty-free car imports for all Public Servants.

President Mnangagwa has also promised to build 34,000 units to house teachers over the next five years as well as free transport to-and-from work.

Harare, 10 February, 2022

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