Harare – A leading teachers’ union in Zimbabwe says President Robert Mugabe‘s government’s decision to suspend the payment of annual bonuses to civil servants is a “declaration of war”.

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majongwe

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Teachers make up nearly half of the 554 000 civil servants reported to be on the government payroll. Many of them count on an extra salary cheque at the end of the year to fund school fees for their own children.

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“To us this is nothing but an open attack and a declaration of war against the workers of Zimbabwe,” the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) said on Tuesday.

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“We must join forces and say NO!! Government must look for money even if they are to borrow it from Satan we don’t care.”

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Government spending

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On Monday Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa said the decision to cancel bonuses until at least 2017 was necessary to create “fiscal space”.

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Zimbabwe currently spends more than 80% of its annual budget paying workers’ salaries.

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But the PTUZ, which is headed by Raymond Majongwe, said the government should cut spending elsewhere.

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“If government has no money where are they getting the $20m to conduct the 10th June by-elections?” the union asked, in reference to by-elections to be held to fill parliamentary seats left vacant by the recent expulsion of 21 MDC parliamentarians.

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Zimbabwe’s economic growth slowed down massively after a surge of optimism during the 2009-13 coalition government.

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Critics blame Mugabe’s controversial economic policies – which include forcing foreign-owned businesses to sell majority shares to locals – for stalled growth.