Tuesday, 17 February 2009
HARARE - Zimbabwe's new Finance Minister Tendai Biti will today
announce foreign currency salaries for civil servants in line with a pledge
made by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai after his inauguration last week.
Sources said the new government tasked Biti after its first Cabinet
meeting yesterday to announce how much civil servants would be paid
beginning this month-end.
This, the sources said, was after Tsvangirai convinced the Cabinet
that he had sourced substantial funds to pay civil servants.
"The Cabinet was satisfied that Tsvangirai had secured the money from
donor organisations," one of the sources said. "Biti will hold a press
conference tomorrow (Wednesday) to unveil the civil servants packages."
The sources declined to reveal how much Tsvangirai had in the kit and
the identity of the organisations where the money came from.
However, speculation was rife that the money would come from UNICEF
Biti yesterday confirmed that he would address a press conference to
deal with "civil servants remuneration and other pressing issues".
The Ministry of Information and Publicity yesterday invited the local
media to the press conference on "civil servants' salaries" to be held by
Biti at his official offices.
On Monday, Tsvangirai met representatives of teachers and told them
that they would be paid in foreign currency.
Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) secretary general
Raymond Majongwe said the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader had
told them that he had sourced the money and were to be informed of their new
salaries before the weekend.
"The prime minister told us that Biti will announce the new salaries
for civil servants," Majongwe said. "We are going to wait and find out the
package on offer before we decide the next course of action."
Teachers and other civil servants have been on strike since last year
pressing to be paid in hard currency. They want to be paid a minimum of US$2
Speaking after taking oath of office last Wednesday, Tsvangirai
pledged to pay health workers, teachers, soldiers, police officers and civil
service professionals in foreign currency from the end of this month.
In return, he asked that schools be re-opened and civil servants
return to their desks by Monday - a plea most teachers snubbed.
"Our public service has ground to a halt as many of our patriotic
government employees can no longer afford to eat, let alone pay for
transport to their place of work," Tsvangirai said.
"Hard currency salaries will enable people to go to work, to feed
their families and to survive until such time that we can begin to sustain
ourselves as a country."
His pronouncement was questioned by many who wondered where Tsvangirai
had obtained the foreign currency.
Then acting finance minister Patrick Chinamasa issued a statement
saying the government would pay civil servants foreign currency denominated
coupons with a face value of US$100 to buy food at selected places.
The country's inclusive government was formed last week between
President Robert Mugabe, Tsvangirai and the leader of the smaller MDC
formation, Arthur Mutambara, after they signed a unity government deal last
Meanwhile teachers' unions said they had advised Tsvangirai that
should the issue of salaries be resolved there was need for the new
government to revise the school calendar after most public schools - where
the majority of Zimbabwe's children learn - failed to open for the new term
on January 27 because teachers were on strike.
Zimbabwe Teachers Association (ZIMTA) secretary general Richard
Gundani said: "We also advised him that there was need to revise the school
calendar that will be officially announced by the new minister as we feel
there has not been any effective learning since January 27 when schools were
supposed to be officially opened."
PTUZ spokesman Oswald Madziva said a new calendar would allow
authorities to assess the situation in the education sector and to devise
ways to ensure a return to normalcy. - ZimOnline