Mugabe says seeking steps to speed up public employees’ pay

HARARE (Reuters) – Zimbabwe’s government is working on measures to avoid delays in salary payments to soldiers, police officers and other public employees, President Robert Mugabe said on Monday.

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The southern African country has struggled to pay public workers on time as it struggles with its worst financial squeeze since it dumped its hyperinflation-hit currency in 2009 and adopted the United States dollar.

Monthly salaries for army soldiers, police officers, doctors, nurses, teachers and other public employees have been delayed for weeks over the past few months.

This led to strikes in July that closed businesses, government offices, schools and hospitals – the most significant popular defiance of the long-ruling, 92-year-old Mugabe in a decade.

“Measures to avoid delays in the payment of salaries for civil servants are being developed,” Mugabe said in his annual National Heroes Day speech honouring guerrillas who died in Zimbabwe’s 1970s war of independence. He gave no details.

Continued salary delays could stoke political tensions in Zimbabwe, which has been plagued by drought, a drop in mineral prices and chronic cash shortages – all factors behind unrest against Mugabe, the only leader independent Zimbabwe has known.

At the height of the protests, war veterans turned on their long-time patron Mugabe, describing him as a dictator in a jolting rebuke underlining mounting anger over economic woes.

Mugabe dismissed a call from veterans for his resignation, saying he was in power by popular vote and accusing critics of plotting his ouster in league with longtime critics in the West.

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