Cash-strapped Zim 'won't sack civil servants'

Zimbabwe - Despite pressure from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), cash-strapped Zimbabwe will not sack any of its civil servants, a report quotes the finance minister as saying.

Patrick Chinamasa told the state-controlled Sunday Mail newspaper that audits would be carried out to weed out "ghost workers", civil servants who are either dead or not working in that particular post anymore.

"We are not going to sack anyone," he said.

Zimbabwe's bloated civil service wage bill eats up an unsustainable 83% of national revenue. As economic problems bite and industry and social services suffer, the reduction of that bill has been a key target for President Robert Mugabe's government under an IMF-monitored Staff Monitored Programme.

Officials, including Chinamasa, clearly hope that the success of that initiative will eventually lead to Zimbabwe being allowed to access IMF funding again.

Rationalising expenses

In comments that will likely reassure workers but exasperate economists, the finance minister talked about "rationalising expenses", "making savings" and "redeploying" but stressed there would be no real job losses within the public sector.

Former finance minister Tendai Biti predicted this week that the authorities would not dare fire civil servants because "the next election is less than 36 months away".

Biti served in government during the 2009-13 coalition. He has since split from opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party, which he was a member of at the time.

The former minister told the Zimbabwe Independent, "Government must fire those 200 000 ghost workers who were recruited during the run-up to the 2008 and 2013 elections".

"Genuine reforms demand that those people are fired like yesterday but political expediency means that those people cannot be fired," Biti added.

An IMF team said at the close of a second review of Zimbabwe's Staff Monitored Programme this week that the country had made "significant progress in implementing its reform agenda".

There's been speculation that the statement was issued before Zimbabwe's new indigenisation minister Patrick Zhuwao, who is also Mugabe's nephew, attacked Chinamasa apparently over his attempts to encourage foreign direct investment. Zhuwao also criticised government officials who've been promoting a softer approach to Mugabe's indigenisation drive.

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