HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) — Zimbabwe's civil servants had a bleak Christmas because the government failed to pay their December salaries on time.
Only soldiers were paid on time. Teachers, usually paid by the 22nd of each month, only received their salaries a week later on Tuesday, Dec. 29. Many teachers said their paychecks had surprise deductions — with up to 10 percent taken off their $400 monthly salaries. The government said other civil servants will be paid at a later date.
"The money is not yet available but the salaries and bonuses will definitely be paid at some point," said Public Service Minister Prisca Mupfumira.
Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa said in a statement that all civil servants will be paid on Jan. 5. About 80 percent of the Zimbabwean government's revenue is to pay the country's 276,000 civil servants, Chinamasa said.
The Zimbabwean government has been the country's most reliable employer as private companies have buckled under continued economic uncertainty.
Patrick Zhuwao, Minister of Indigenization and Empowerment, suggested that the government raise funds by levying foreign companies that have not yet met the government's demand to cede 51 percent of their shares to black Zimbabweans.
In the meantime, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe is on a family vacation to Asia, his office said in a statement.
"Mugabe is busy spending scarce resources lavishing his wife to a stupendous holiday when the country is burning. It's insensitive," said Obert Gutu, spokesman for the main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change.
Doctors belonging to the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association plan to go on strike Jan. 1 to protest top officials' unchecked spending despite scarce public resources.
"The flamboyance that we continue to see and the hefty perks are not in tandem with the chorus of limited fiscal space," said Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association spokesman Francis Rwodzi.
This story was corrected to show that teachers were paid on Dec. 29, not Dec. 28.