Soldiers Threaten to Riot Over Salaries

HARARE – Zimbabwe National Army soldiers have threatended to riot if their allowances are not reviewed to US$ 500 per month from the US$ 100 awarded last month.\r\n

The soldiers reportedly approached their supervisers and indicated that the US$ 100 they are currenctly earning is not enough to cover their basic needs.

Soldiers who spoke to reporters indicated that their allowances were being spent on water and electricity charges as well as rentals, with minimum rentals now pegged at R200 per month.

Last year soldiers staged riots in protest of the deteriorating economic environment.

Civil servants expectations appeared confirmed when, shortly after taking office, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai announced to the world the Chinamasa proposed measure to award civil servants US$ salaries.

But Biti chopped a massive US$ 900 million of the proposed US$ 1,7 billion expenditure and immediately announced the launch of the Short-Term Economic Recovery Plan the Government would pursue until the end of the year.

The economy, he said, was going to operate on a "We eat what we gather basis" with Government expenditure being determined by its revenue receipts.

For the month of February and part of March, he noted, such receipts were only US$ 25 million and US$ 30 million respectively, against a projected US$ 140 million and this was not even enough to review upwards the "modest" US$ 100 allowances for the civil service.

On the other hand, fiscal demands were "high and limitless" and this was not helped by the existence, he said, of perennial vehicles of fiscal drainage, which required vast amounts from the fiscus.

And because of the economic downturn that has resulted in the world nose-diving into a recession unmatched in the last seven decades, aid has not been coming Zimbabwe’s way.

In apparent reference to the Western donor community that had been assumed would take the leading role in mobilising funds for Zimbabwe, Biti said that "where financial linkages to the affected countries are stronger" the impacts of the downturn "have been more pronounced".

But there has been a glimmer of light, though, with the Southern African Development Community, led by South Africa, working on a rescue package for Zimbabwe.

South Africa has pledged a US$ 2 billion package to Zimbabwe and has taken the lead in encouraging the West to re-engage Zimbabwe and extend not only humanitarian but also developmental support to Zimbabwe.

In the review, Biti hinted that the Government would dispose of its "family silverware", with reference to selling off some of its parastatals such as NetOne, a mobile telephone provider.