February 13, 2007

Central bank doubles salaries for youth militia

Zimbabwe’s central bank has doubled salaries for youth militia squads employed to monitor prices in shops to Z$1.2 million per month, a figure more than 10 times the monthly salaries of teachers and doctors, sources told Zim Online. Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) governor Gideon Gono, who claims the country’s runaway inflation is largely fuelled by profiteering businesses, has since last year employed about 5.000 graduates of the government’s controversial national youth service training programme on a campaign to ensure shops obey state controls on prices of basic goods. The youth militias are assisted by uniformed police who in recent months have arrested several business executives and shop managers found selling basic goods above prices gazetted by the state. "We do not get pay slips. We get our money direct from the Reserve Bank, where we are made to sign some forms bearing our names. We renewed our contracts at the beginning of the year and we will be here doing the duties up to the end of March," said one member of the youth militia.
Ministry of Youth officials referred questions on the matter to Gono who would not deny or confirm whether youths salaries had been doubled but said the central bank would strive to ensure price control teams earned enough money to keep them out of corruption. Gono said: "We make sure that they do not indulge in corruption because that is what we are fighting as a nation. I cannot disclose their salaries because that is a matter of personal privacy." Before the latest increase two weeks ago the youths, who have always earned more than the average civil servant including police officers helping them to monitor prices, were earning $600.000 per month.
The lowest paid teacher earns about $84.000 per month, a figure way below the Z$460.000 that the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe says a family of five needs per month to survive. Junior state doctors earn about $600.000 per month. Teachers at some government schools have been on strike for about a week, turning up in class but refusing to conduct lessons, to protest their poor salaries.
In the meantime, government has fired 60 doctors for spearheading the strike. The doctors, who are all based at Harare Central Hospital, were accused of absenting themselves from work for more than 30 days in violation of the Health Services Regulations of 2006. Hospital Doctors’ Association President Kudakwashe Nyamutukwa confirmed the dismissal of his colleagues saying the fate of the other doctors was still unknown. "The process (of dismissing doctors) is ongoing and it’s quite confusing because the Minister (Parirenyatwa) was saying our grievances were genuine," said Nyamutukwa. Besides, four striking nurses have been charged with "uttering" words that caused a disturbance, their lawyer said, and accused the state of bringing the charges to pressure for a return to work. Lawyer Charles Kwaramba said police charged his clients under a section of Zimbabwe's draconian Public Order and Security Act which has been repealed. Sources among striking nurses said the arrests were intended to intimidate them into returning to work. Most of the nurses at Harare and Parirenyatwa hospitals in Harare have returned to work, though the government has made no concessions. The nurses, like resident doctors in the main public hospitals in Harare and Bulawayo, seek significant pay increases to help them cope with inflation over 1.200%.
The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, the largest labour federation in the country, has also given the government until February 23 to address pay grievances of doctors, teachers and that it fixes the economy or face a general strike by workers across the country. Churches and human rights organisations accuse government youth militias of hunting down supporters of the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change party, beating, raping, torturing and sometimes murdering them as punishment for not backing the government. The government denies its youth brigades persecute the opposition and also rejects charges of human rights violations in the country. (Zimbabwe Online / Voa News, South Africa)

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