Economics - Southern Africa - Zimbabwe - Employment - Governance
Zimbabwe economy dip feared as nationwide strike begins
An indefinite strike by Zimbabwe’s entire civil servants has paralyzed operations in schools, hospital and the courts and government departments. Civil servants endorsed the strike Friday after talks with the cash strapped coalition government collapsed.

Workers are demanding US$630 monthly salary for the least paid up from US$120. But the broke government which is the biggest employer of about 236 000 workers is only prepared to increase wages ranging from US$2 to US$21 by April.

This was seen as "insufficient", hence the strike.

The trial of MDC Roy Bennett, a close ally of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai was today postponed indefinitely after court workers joined the strike. Scores of people who had intended to hear the case were turned away at the High Court.

Bennett is on trial charged with illegal possession of arms for "terrorism, banditry and sabotage". Attorney-General Johannes Tomana could only say the trial has been deferred indefinitely, on account of the strike.

Other court cases were also postponed.

Public Service Minister Eliphas Mukonoweshuro of the MDC admitted that last-minute talks with labour had failed to stave off the strike. A court clerk said “It is criminal for the government to give us a paltry offer. We gave the government the whole of 2009 to put its house in order but the offer they are giving us clearly shows that there is no commitment.

“We expected them to have fulfilled the GPA by now. They are not concerned about that and yet all developments hinges on that. We want to have our country running again. This country is rich in minerals; we have diamonds in Marange, is it not proper for the money coming from mining to be ploughed back into servicing our salaries.”

Since the formation of the unity government last February, teachers had returned to work while state hospitals were admitting patients again as nurses and junior doctors resumed their duties.

But government’s failure to convince major Western nations to provide direct financial support could see basic services such as health and education collapse again as civil servants strike or, as before, resume the exodus to foreign countries where wages and livings conditions are better.

Meanwhile, South African mediators jetted in Harare this afternoon to meet negotiators from Zimbabwe’s squabbling coalition partners.


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