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Zimbabwe pays top soldiers in forex

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By Lebo Nkatazo
Posted to the web: 13/01/2009 14:20:41
THE cash-strapped Zimbabwe government is paying top army officers’ salaries in foreign currency, New can reveal.

Soldiers ranked from colonel up to the commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) started receiving their salaries in hard currency in December with the lowest paid taking home US$2,000 per month.

Sources said last month's rioting by junior officers in central Harare was triggered by the government move that discriminates against lower rank officers.

The ZDF declined to comment on the issue on Tuesday, but the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) demanded that the foreign currency payments must be extended to all civil servants.

The MDC’s defence spokesman Giles Mutsekwa said he was aware of the “secret operation”. According to Mutsekwa, the senior officers also got part of their salaries in local currency.

“Zanu PF wants to buy loyalty from senior officers in the armed forces. Its part of its patronage system," Mutsekwa said.

In a bid to pacify all soldiers amid a national cash shortage, the government has resorted to paying them at the barracks.

Mutsekwa said if paying in foreign currency was now government policy, it should also extend to all civil servants including teachers and doctors.

“Why the army only? What about teachers. We do not even know if children will go back to school," Mutsekwa said.

Teachers’ unions having written to the government demanding salaries of US$2,300 per teacher, with the first school term already delayed by two weeks because last year’s Grade 7 exams are still unmarked. And in a further confirmation of the fast paced dollarisation of Zimbabwe’s economy, most private schools, universities and colleges are now demanding fees in foreign exchange.

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