Mugabe to face storm over pay rise for civil servants

Robert Mugabe faces a grilling upon his return from his annual leave at the first cabinet meeting of the year on Tuesday over the contested issue of civil servants salaries which has divided the inclusive government.

Senior government officials told the Sunday Times the issue was going to be hotly debated after Mugabe announced this week in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, that he would increase the salaries of public servants with diamond revenues which have not yet been declared to the Treasury.

Mugabe was attending the African Union summit.

Finance Minister Tendai Biti is not aware of the diamond sales and the expected revenues. Biti has fought many battles in cabinet with his colleagues over diamond revenues and the lack of transparency and accountability around the issue.

"The issue of civil servants’ salaries is going to be debated next week on Tuesday. It has now become a controversial matter because of what the president said in Ethiopia, besides the divisions it has already caused in government," a senior government official said.

"The debate is likely to be heated because of several reasons. The president and his ministers want to use diamond revenues to pay the public workers, but the problem is that money has not been declared to Treasury.

The other problem is that government itself is divided on whether to increase the salaries or not. Some say there is no money, while others say it can be raised. The trouble is that the issue has now been politicised and hence the clashes."

Another senior government official said the situation would be worsened by the discussion over ghost workers in government. Public Service Minister Eliphas Mukonoweshuro is expected to table a report which has unearthed over 75000 ghost workers in the civil service.

Civil servants’ representatives last week said an audit of the government workforce had shown that tens of thousands of ghost workers were bloating the wage bill.

"The audit has revealed that there are about 75000 ghost workers. It is a fact. Civil servants were actually involved in compiling that report and they reported those issues to us. Officials at the ministry also confirmed this," Progressive Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe president, Takavafira Zhou, confirmed.

The issue is bound to provoke a furious debate in cabinet, especially after revelations that 10000 ghost workers in the Ministry of Youth were employed to campaign for Mugabe during the 2008 elections.

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai also raised a series of controversial matters on civil servants at a meeting with Mugabe on Wednesday.

He also confronted Mugabe on political violence, the constitution-making process and elections. They also discussed the state of affairs in the MDC-M and the contested issue of new deputy prime minister-designate Welshman Ncube.

Mugabe told Zimbabweans at a luncheon hosted by ambassador to Ethiopia, Andrew Mtetwa, that Mbada Diamonds, one the companies operating in the controversial Chiadzwa diamond fields, would pay a "large dividend" to government after selling gems recently.

"The Minister of Mines (Obert Mpofu) was telling me four days ago that there had been a third sale of diamonds and they are going to give quite a large sum to Treasury.

"It’s going to assist also in raising salary levels of the people and even my salary level. If I show you my pay slip, you won’t believe it. I’m paid $1750.36 but of course we are farmers, we grow crops, we have piggery and poultry projects which help our families."

However, Biti, who adheres to fiscal discipline, has been arguing it would be reckless for government to increase salaries. Biti has thus clashed with colleagues, including Tsvangirai, over this. – Timeslive