HARARE - Zimbabwe’s government workers, including public prosecutors, say they are being squeezed by inflation, which is now running at an annual rate of 175 percent. Some have asked to live in their places of work to cut down on the cost of rent and transportation.
Thirty-one-year-old Munyaradzi Masiiwa is a high school teacher in Harare. Masiiwa says he went into the profession because he admired his teachers growing up, and saw them living in nice houses and driving nice cars.
But now, he says, he has lost all motivation, because his salary of less than $30 per month isn't enough to support his five dependents, including his 75-year-old mother and two children.
This month, he says, the money lasted only three days.
“I am going to work right now and l just got porridge. I cannot afford to buy a loaf of bread... It is very difficult, it is very difficult to get used to the situation. The family is looking up to me; l have nothing to offer. The kids are going to school with nothing to eat,” Masiiwa said.
The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions has warned of possible strikes unless the government of President Emmerson Mnangagwa does something to arrest inflation.
Masiiwa, however, says he believes a strike will just bring a heavy-handed government response.
“If we try to demonstrate or to organize strikes we are being torched, we are being abducted. So it is becoming difficult to organize ourselves. So in that situation we no longer have hope when we cannot organize ourselves even to negotiate with the government. They already know the situation we are in,” Masiiwa said.
Energy Mutodi, Zimbabwe's junior information minister, says the government is aware of the workers' concerns and is taking steps to address them.
“...We need the people to be patient. We are coming from many years of economic stabilization and that must be known and that needs to be then corrected through a long process of correcting our economic fundamentals and that is happening,” Mutodi said.
The government's “austerity for prosperity” program has resulted in reduced expenditures and a rare budget surplus in recent months. But it also cut down subsidies for essentials such as electricity and fuel.
For Masiiwa and other workers like him, that means more days of no electricity, not enough food and no clean tap water.
Workers in various government departments have sought permission to live at their workplace, even in courtrooms, to cut on transport and rent costs. The government has dismissed the requests as the work of the opposition.