Civil service strike goes ahead despite pleas for patience from Mugabe

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Civil servants’ union leaders claim the strike by government workers was still going ahead despite last week calls for patience by President Mugabe, but the situation on the grounds suggests the job action has long sputtered out.

A survey by NewsDay in Harare showed this week that all government institutions were functioning normally.

It was business as usual at all government health and education institutions. The situation was the same at other buildings housing government ministries and other services such as passport and birth and death registration.

Civil servants embarked on a nation-wide strike three weeks ago after failing to reach an agreement on salary negotiations with government.

Although the job action crippled some government functions in big towns, it took a few days before it fizzled out. The strike was apparently weakened by clashes within the two major teachers’ unions over political matters.

The Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) accused its rival, the Zimbabwe Teachers Association (Zimta) of meddling in politics by seeking to blame Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai for government’s failure to pay them.

The Raymond Majongwe-led group threatened to call off its members from the strike. Elsewhere in the health sector, the job action suffered a natural death just as it failed to gain currency in other government departments.

Teachers at most schools were receiving ‘incentives’ drawn from parents’ contributions and therefore found no moral ground to continue with the strike.

Leader of the Apex council spearheading the industrial action Tendai Chikowore insisted that the strike was still alive. She told NewsDay in an interview that civil servants had not found any solace from Mugabe’s calls for patience.

She said: “There is no going back on strike because of what the President said. We will not listen to anything that does not come from negotiations”.

Civil servants are demanding that their salaries be hiked from an average of US$150 to as much as US$630. Government has awarded them a US$17 increment and said the economy is not yet able to raise enough to satisfy the workers’ demands.

Mugabe said when he officiated at the publicity launch of the Kadoma Declaration last Friday that civil servants would have to be patient.

“We may, in your view , seem to be dragging our feet but where you accuse us of inaction, the situation is still hard and the yield from our economy does not allow us to play that part which will please your families,” the President said.

Finance Minister Tendai Biti said government coffers were dry and he could not “draw money from stone”.