HARARE - Zimbabwe’s government says it won’t be able to pay the military, police or civil servants on time this month amid continued cash shortages.
This is the third time in the past year that the government has had to delay wages. But this month, the military and police are also affected.
In a statement, the Ministry of Finance cited “severe revenue underperformance and related cash flow challenges.”
Some government workers will only get their salaries in mid-July.
“We have worked and we are supposed to get our salaries as, and when, they are due, said Raymond Majongwe, secretary general of the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe. "The level of opulence and extravaganza that is being expressed by the government – and its officials – in their line of duty or out of it does not suggest that this government is broke….We are simply saying, they have tested our patience too long and it is really time to show our teeth. And we have the teeth, do not forget. And we are simply saying to the government, pay us or we go for confrontation.”
Government employees are not the only ones affected by the cash shortage.
Waiting for his money at an ATM in the capital, a man says this is the first time he is being paid since March.
He says it has been a long time since his employer has been able to pay salaries, but he says he has just been alerted via SMS that his salary has finally been deposited in his bank account.
But he says, "I don’t know whether it will be in yen, dollars or rand."
Zimbabwe adopted its currency in 2009 amid hyperinflation.
Things got better for a time, but the country’s economy began to take another turn for the worse a year ago.
The government says it is printing bond notes to address the cash shortage. The notes will have the same value to U.S. dollars and will be in circulation in about three months.
But Harare-based economist John Robertson says if Zimbabwe’s government wants to meet its workforce salaries, then it has to cut its expenditures and attract foreign investors to broaden the tax base.
“And that process hasn’t started yet because we are still [an] unattractive country to invest in because government regulations and enormous controls that the government imposes on the investors, and this is affected by indigenization policies, which are a major discouragement,” he said.
President Robert Mugabe has dug in his heels on indigenization, a 2007 policy that requires foreign businesses to cede 51 percent control to black Zimbabweans.
On Sunday, Mugabe reaffirmed his position, telling the “British and Americans” to “keep your resources."