Harare – Zimbabwe has delayed paying its soldiers for a second successive month, sources said on Monday, underlining the worsening economic crisis that has triggered recent protests.
Ten days ago, President Robert Mugabe’s government was shaken by a national strike led by civil servants frustrated over several salary delays as Zimbabwe’s treasury struggles with a severe cash shortage.
The military is normally the first priority for payment due to their role in protecting the regime of Mugabe, 92.
But they were not paid as scheduled last week, and last month’s salaries were paid about two weeks late.
“We were supposed to get our salaries last Friday but there was nothing at the bank,” a junior soldier who requested anonymity told AFP. “We do not know when we will be paid.”
Other soldiers confirmed the delay.
The cash-strapped government, which spends more than 80% of its revenue on wages, has resorted to staggering pay dates as it scrapes the bottom of its coffers.
Protests in recent weeks over salaries, alleged police corruption and import restrictions have exposed growing public anger as the country’s economy has ground to a halt.
Mugabe has previously used his ruthless security forces to crack down on any public show of dissent.
Christian pastor Evan Mawarire, who has emerged as a leader of the protests, was arrested last week and then released after charges that he had attempted to overthrow the government were thrown out by a court.
“We have gotten to a place as Zimbabweans where… the personal struggle has become too difficult to hide,” Mawarire told Radio 702 on Monday.
“No matter what your religion is or background or political affiliation, we have just reached a point where we are saying… we are done with this,” said the 39-year-old, who has travelled to South Africa.
He said he was safe following fears that he would be targeted by pro-Mugabe groups, but he gave no more details about his whereabouts or future plans.
An army spokesperson did not immediately comment on the reported salary delays.
The average soldier’s pay is about $500 (R7 000) a month.