Zimbabwe regime stops recruiting more public workers as it struggles to pay

HARARE, (Reuters) – Zimbabwe has stopped hiring new state workers after failing to pay its soldiers and teachers on time, according to an official notice, as President Robert Mugabe’s government struggles with a big financial squeeze.

The southern African nation dumped its hyperinflation-hit currency in 2009 and adopted the U.S. dollar, but it is facing biting dollar shortages and is struggling to secure international financing.

August salaries for the army and teachers have been delayed by a week. Such delays could fuel political tensions in Zimbabwe, which has also been hit by drought and a drop in mineral prices, all factors behind recent protests against 92-year-old Mugabe, the only leader independent Zimbabwe has known.

Zimbabwe first announced it plans to freeze new hirings for public workers after a March 2015 civil service audit, whose results were never made public.

Pretty Sunguro, the secretary in the Public Service Commission, which employs all state workers, said in a memorandum dated Aug. 2 to all government departments that it had frozen “the filling of all vacant critical, non-critical and promotional posts with immediate effect.”

In the notice, seen by Reuters on Monday, Sunguro said “recruitment of critical areas only will be considered on a case by case basis. Please note that in the same vein, all other forms of regrading have also been frozen.”

Public Service Minister Prisca Mupfumira declined to comment.

Without balance of payments support or funding from its traditional Western backers, Harare spends 82 percent of its national budget on public sector salaries.

Harare owes $110 million to the IMF, $600 million to the African Development Bank and $900 million to the World Bank.

Western powers imposed sanctions on Mugabe’s government over allegations of vote rigging and human rights abuses, which he rejects, while lenders such as the International Monetary Fund have frozen financial aid since Harare defaulted in 1999. (Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe; Editing by James Macharia and Toby Chopra)

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