Feb 7, 2010 10:53 PM By Moses Mudzwiti
Zimbabwe's civil servants will embark on a nationwide strike for better pay as the unity government staggers towards its first anniversary.
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Morgan Tsvangirai became prime minister of the country on February 11 last year amid fanfare and hope. But today the situation has changed for the worst.
Trade unions that previously stood shoulder-to-shoulder with him and his Movement for Democratic Change party have gone their own way.
Public Service Minister Eliphas Mukonoweshuro of the MDC admitted at the weekend that last-minute talks with labour had failed to stave off the strike.
He said the government's new offer had been rejected by workers because it was "insufficient".
Teachers, doctors, nurses and other civil servants told the fragile unity government last Friday that they would down tools.
Today marks the beginning of the nationwide strike.
Schools, hospitals, government offices and other state services such as courts were expected to shut down. It is not known how long the strike will last.
President of the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association Dr Amos Chizhande's comment that "we are being ignored" sums up the mood among lowly paid government employees.
The Zimbabwean government has been financing expensive overseas jaunts for politicians, while salaries remained depressed as the country makes half-hearted attempts to mend its broken-down economy.
Last year the government spent $20-million (R156-million) on overseas trips, a far cry from the $4-million (R31-million) it offered civil servants.
At the weekend police and other security forces were addressed by commanders on the impending strike.
Undeterred by the sabre rattling, thousands of underpaid civil servants have decided to join the stayaway - regardless of the consequences. Civil servants earn on average a paltry $150 (R1100) a month. They are demanding as much as $630 (R4900) a month.
The government is the biggest employer in Zimbabwe with about 150000 employees.
The strike comes at time when the unity government was at its weakest. As it is, all outstanding matters will remain unresolved.
President Robert Mugabe and his Zanu-PF party declared that no further concessions would be made until sanctions imposed on them (by the Western countries) were lifted.
Mugabe has blamed Tsvangirai, who enjoys good relations with the West, for the continued sanctions