Unpaid Civil Servants Plan To Strike

Civil servants’ unions in Zimbabwe say their members will begin a nationwide stay-away on Tuesday because they haven’t been paid their salaries for last month.

“Owing to incapacitation by the government’s failure to pay our June salaries on time, we pronounce that our members will not be able to attend to duty as from Tuesday 5th of July until the impasse has been resolved,” says a statement from the APEX council, which represents public service unions.

The council represents the bulk of teachers, doctors and nurses who have received only a $100 advance on their June salaries.

Said the biggest teachers’ union ZIMTA in a statement: “We take this [strike] position out of frustration and despair… Stand up and be counted.”

The threat has been met with alarm from President Robert Mugabe’s government, with acting public service minister Supa Mandiwanzira telling the official Sunday Mail: “Government is addressing the issue… we are working on paying their salaries as promised.”

This is not the first time salaries or state pension payments have been delayed as Zimbabwe slips back into economic crisis: in fact, many civil servants did not get their December salaries in time for Christmas last year, putting a dampener on festivities.

But tempers are at breaking point.

The government’s attempts to limit foreign imports from South Africa resulted in angry scenes at Beitbridge on Friday, with a warehouse set on fire and a fast food outlet looted. Protests like this are unusual in Zimbabwe.

As police become increasingly voracious in their hunt for “fines” at roadblocks (a new $200 fine was introduced last week for anyone dropping off or picking up pedestrians from anywhere that isn’t an official bus stop) and as press reports on corruption or overspending by government officials roll in, some Zimbabweans are losing patience.

Said the privately-owned Standard newspaper in an editorial on Sunday: “The general disgruntlement by citizens of this country is not something that Mugabe and his government can continue to ignore.”

The police and the army have been paid.