TOUGH TIMES

Thousands of Zimbabweans are about to go from working for Mugabe to protesting against him

Quartz africa
Quartz africa

The Zimbabwean government, the country’s main employer, will cut 25,000 jobs as a desperate measure to save what’s left in state coffers. Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa announced the job cuts and other cost-cutting measures, according to a Sept. 9 report by the state-run Herald Newspaper.

The job losses are likely to spur more public anger, with Zimbabweans already protesting against president Robert Mugabe’s 36-year-rule and the cash-strapped economy. Anticipating an Arab Spring-style movement in his country, Mugabe tried to temporarily ban protests, but Zimbabwe’s high court overturned the ban earlier this week.

Chinamasa also announced the embassy closures and cutting perks for state officials. Ministers and high-ranking officials will see salary cuts ranging from 5% to 20%. Chinamasa’s budget cuts will also halt bailouts for state-owned companies that are not supported by “specific and measurable recovery plans.”

Zimbabwe’s 2016 revenue is projected at less than $3.7 billion, a decline from the initial projection of $3.85 billion, the Herald reported. Paying state employees cost $1.64 billion between January and June, or 96.8% of revenue. Chinamasa hopes job cuts will reduce employment cost to 60% of Zimbabwe’s annual revenue by 2019.

In 2015, wages accounted for more than 80% of Zimbabwe’s spending. Zimbabwe’s government employs about 300,000 people, excluding police, the military and prison employees. In August this year, the agriculture ministry was already informed that it would lose half its staff.

Chinamasa tried to trim the civil service last year, but was blocked by Mugabe, according to Bloomberg. Fearing a loss of support at the 2018 polls. During 2013 election campaigning, Mugabe promised to create over 2 million jobs.

Anger over unpaid wages has fueled a recent surge of protests in Zimbabwe. In July, teachers, doctors and civil servants stayed away from work after their salaries were delayed. A protest organized via WhatsApp left Zimbabwe’s main cities deserted. Young people who have only ever known Mugabe’s rule are behind many of the protests, undeterred by police brutality and emboldened by social media.

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