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Mugabe moves to sack 25,000 civil servants


As Zimbabwe crisis worsens

President of Zimbabwe Robert Mugabe listens as Prof. Alpha Oumar Konare, chairman of the Commission of the African Union, addresses attendees at the opening ceremony of the 10th Ordinary Session of the Assembly during the African Union Summit in Addis Ab aba, Ethiopia, Jan. 31, 2008. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Jeremy Lock) (Released)


By Lukmon Akintola


Faced with dwindling economic fortunes, the Zimbabwe authorities are planning to cut some 25,000 government jobs in the next few days.

When implemented, this would mean that more than 8 percent of civil servants in the country would be taken off the workforce and extimates are that this would reduce a national wage bill that presently consumes almost 97 percent of the budget.

According to sources at the Finance Ministry, the move will precisely result in trimming the number of state workers to 273,000, which will in turn reduce the proportion of salaries to total revenue to 75 percent by December 2017.

While acknowledging that this figure will still be very high, the ministry however notes that it will be a “significant improvement on the current unsustainable situation.”

The latest push is coming after previous attempts to reduce the workforce were thwarted by President Robert Mugabe’s cabinet over what observers say were fears of its possible political repercussions, even as the percentage of quantum of national revenues exclusively taken up by civil servants’ pay rose from 83 percent earlier this year.

Underscoring the depth of the current crisis, Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa told parliament last week that some wages would likely go unpaid later this year because money may not be available. Already, a trend has emerged where civil servants and soldiers are repeatedly paid late as the government struggles to tackle excruciating revenue challenges.

Almost without any doubt, the southern African nation is experiencing its worst economic crisis since the hyper-inflationary period that peaked in 2008, when inflation soared to 500 billion percent, according to the International Monetary Fund. Now, after it switched to the use of the U.S. dollar in 2009, a shortage of currency, deflation and unemployment of about 90 percent have plunged the country back into crisis.

Analysts say that the decision to chop 25 000 jobs from the civil service, which is a big number for a relatively small country will have dire implications on an already stretched social fabric. For one, it will mean that roughly one in every 10 government employees will lose their job. With unemployment already rampant, these individuals are likely to be the breadwinners for large circles.

Second, the proposal is likely to anger Zimbabweans, who are growing hungrier – and angrier – by the day over the management of the country. As the country runs out of money, tensions are continuing to build – between citizens and the government, but also within political circles. In the meantime President Robert Mugabe, in his 90s and in ill health, shows no signs of handing over the reins to a younger person with fresh ideas on how to get Zimbabwe out of a serious mess.

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