November 8, 2007

Civil servants strikes could spread

A week-long strike by Zimbabwe magistrates over pay could be joined by more disgruntled state employees, increasing pressure on President Mugabe ahead of the elections in 2008, analysts said. This year alone has witnessed wildcat strikes from doctors, nurses, teachers and university lecturers, all demanding higher wages but some workers have stopped coming to work all together, moving to neighbouring countries or abroad for better jobs. "This is an electoral season that we are in and the government can ill afford to have an ocean of discontent which its opponents can use for their own political ends," said Eldred Masunungure, a leading political analyst.
The strike by the magistrates, which started in Harare, has spread countrywide and forced courts to close. Analysts said the possibility that other state departments could join the strike is likely to worry Mugabe's government. "Luckily the opposition is in disarray but economic pressure certainly remains and if unchecked, this strike will spread and paralyse government operations," Masunungure said. The magistrates' want their monthly pay raised sixfold from Z$29-million, which is $966 on the official market but $39 on a thriving parallel market. The strike has meant suspects are held longer in police or remand custody. "The employer has been seized with concerns of the middle and lower levels of the judiciary and the employer is addressing these concerns in an expeditious manner as is reasonably practical," David Mangota, permanent secretary in the justice ministry said in a memorandum to senior magistrates. (The Mail & Guardian, South Africa)

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