President Emmerson Mnangagwa of Zimbabwe has made a mouth-watering proposition to teachers in a bid to avert a catastrophic strike by government workers who say their salaries have been eroded by inflation. The president made the offer on Tuesday, a day after teachers downed tools on the first day of the new school year. They demanded salaries of at least R10 736 (about US$671).
Currently, the lowest paid teacher in Zimbabwe takes home around the equivalent of R1 000 (US$60). That’s the same average for all government workers, including nurses, soldiers and police officers. While members of the army and police cannot strike, there have been numerous cases of banditry linked to serving officers in the past year.
In a bid to appease government workers, Mnangagwa said civil servants will get a 20% salary raise and an incentive of US$175 in foreign currency.
“… a 20% salary increase in the Zimbabwe dollar salary component, backdated to 1 January, will be implemented across the board. US$100 will be paid to every civil servant with effect from the 1st of March 2022. This will be done through the conversion of a corresponding Zimbabwe dollar salary amount into hard currency, bringing the foreign currency amount to US$175,” the president said in a statement.
Mnangagwa’s foreign currency offer flies in the face of the mid-term monetary policy review by Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Governor John Mangudya, who had said the government had no capacity to pay civil servants’ salaries in foreign currency.
“In any case, the financial system is largely constituted of local currency, with around 56% of total deposits being local currency and the balance of 44% being foreign currency deposits, which shows that there is no sufficient foreign currency liquidity to support dollarisation in Zimbabwe,” Mangudya said in his monetary policy statement.
Last week, Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube dangled the carrot of incentives for the use of the deteriorating and unfavoured Zimbabwean dollar, but teachers increased calls for foreign currency-pegged salaries.
While the offer tabled to civil servants falls short of their minimum demand of R10 736, the government has availed other incentives. This includes no school fees for the children of teachers, and duty-free car imports for the whole civil service.
“No monetary benefits include payment of school fees for up to three biological children per teaching family, with an upper limit of ZW$20 000 (R1 600) per child per term, paid directly to the school,” the president said on Tuesday.
Currently, only the children of veterans of Zimbabwe’s war of independence enjoy free education. War veterans are a stakeholder in the political matrix of the country.
Mnangagwa promised to build 34 000 units for teachers in 2 125 blocks of flats in the next five years. He also vowed to provide free transport for teachers.