With more than 200 000 Zimbabwean workers earning between US$150 and US$200 per month, unions in the southern African country have begun pressing for a doubling of salaries,.
But their request to have salaries raised to above the poverty datum line, estimated at US$502, has been met by government intransigence as Finance Minister, Tendai Biti, while meeting workers at a gathering in Gweru argued that government is already spending about 70 percent of the country’s revenue on wages and that government coffers are empty.
However, two weeks ago, government’s vehicle procurement company, Central Mechanical Engineering Department (CMED) took delivery of 40,2110 Limited Edition Jeep Grand Cherokees for cabinet ministers, 40 Land Cruisers V8 SUVs for deputy ministers and 50 Prados for permanent secretaries.
While the price tag of a Jeep Grand Cherokee is estimated at around US$35 000 Biti insists that “There is no money. Revenue collections are going down. In March we collected US$213 million, US$184 million in April and US$164 million in May”.
This comes after a promise by President Robert Mugabe, indicating that workers would get a hike in June, raised expectations among civil servants. And Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe secretary general, Raymond Majongwe, on Monday announced that members were still waiting for confirmation on Tuesday on their bank accounts.
“We have said it categorically, if there is no change we will definitely strike because we have suffered for so long,” said Majongwe.
At the inception of the fragile government in 2009, ministers, with the exception of education minister – David Coltart – who refused the expensive vehicles, were awarded with the latest Mercedes Benz among other incentives.
Meanwhile, The International Monetary Fund has said that Zimbabwe, which owes foreign lenders some US$7 billion, cannot afford increased salaries.
Understand Africa's tomorrow... today
We believe that Africa is poorly represented, and badly under-estimated. Beyond the vast opportunity manifest in African markets, we highlight people who make a difference; leaders turning the tide, youth driving change, and an indefatigable business community. That is what we believe will change the continent, and that is what we report on. With hard-hitting investigations, innovative analysis and deep dives into countries and sectors, The Africa Report delivers the insight you need.