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Zimbabwe President Mugabe back from Singapore, onto Ghana

HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe on Monday traveled to Ghana for its 60th independence anniversary, just hours after arriving back in the country from Singapore where he had gone for a scheduled medical review.

The veteran president who turned 93 last month, rushed to the Southeast Asian country last Wednesday where he had routinely visited in recent years for medical check-ups.

“For us, Ghana is a symbol of African freedom struggles and independence and by going back to Ghana, His Excellency is associating himself with the politics and persuasion of Ghana in the context of Africa’s struggles for independence,” his spokesperson George Charamba was quoted as saying by the State-controlled Herald newspaper.

Mugabe has an emotional attachment to Ghana where he once taught soon after the West African country’s independence. His first wife, Sally Francesca Hayfrone, was also a Ghanaian. She died in 1992.

Mugabe’s spokesperson hit back at critics who complain that Mugabe travels a lot. He said his ability to travel that much on official business outside the country indicates that he is still fit and strong.

“That puts paid to any claims that the president is very ill. In fact, he is so well that he beats even the youngest politicians,” Charamba said.

The opposition has criticized Mugabe’s numerous visits outside the country, claiming they are a waste of scarce resources.



Cash-strapped Zimbabwe government pledges to pay 2016 bonuses in cash

HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- The Zimbabwean government said Monday it will now pay the 2016 bonuses for civil servants in cash starting the end of next month.

Addressing journalists after meeting with workers representatives, Public Service, Labor and Social Services Minister Prisca Mupfumira said the government would stagger the bonus payments, after opting to pay in cash instead of land as it had previously promised.

“After deliberations, we finally came up with an agreed position where we are going to be paying our civil servants their bonuses staggered as follows; end of April, end of May, June and August,” the minister was quoted as saying by state-run news agency New Ziana.

The minister said government would pay defense forces and health workers in April, police and prison workers in May, followed by teachers in June and the rest of the civil servants in August.

Finance and Economic Development Minister Patrick Chinamasa who was also present at the meeting, said cash flow challenges had necessitated the staggering of bonus payments.

“We will make such payments because of the budgetary constraints, we have other payments to make,” he said.

He revealed that the bonus payments would add a strain of 180 million U.S. dollars on the 2017 national budget.

Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Governor John Mangudya, Health and Child Care secretary Gerald Gwinji and several representatives of government workers also attended the Monday meeting.

Apex Council chairperson Cecilia Alexander said the workers, who had initially planned but cancelled a demonstration over the bonuses on Monday, had finally agreed to payment of bonuses in cash and in a staggered form just like what happened for the 2015 bonuses.

Initially, the government had offered to give the workers unserviced residential stands, half payment of salary or to give them funds raised from bonds but it is reported the majority of the workers refused, demanding their bonuses in cash.

The government has in recent years been failing to pay its workers on time due to cash flow challenges.

Government wage bill takes up 200 million dollars per month, translating to about 80 percent of collected revenue.


Zimbabwe doctors end three-week strike

HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- Zimbabwean doctors ended a three-week strike at the weekend after government met some of their demands.

The doctors went on strike mid February, pressing for their annual bonuses, an increase in on-call allowances and cheaper cars. Nurses joined the strike last week.

Government had deployed army doctors to work at affected public hospitals.

The Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association (ZHDA) said in a statement they now waited for the government to deliver on its promises.

The government increased doctors’ on-call allowances to 360 U.S. dollars per month from 288 dollars and promised a car loan package and created 250 new posts for doctors and 2,000 posts for nurses.

Zimbabwe’s public health service delivery has deteriorated significantly over the years due to lack of funds and suffers from shortages of critical health personnel, drugs and equipment.

The resumption of work by the doctors and nurses comes at a time when government is engaging with restive civil servants who are demanding their 2016 annual bonuses.

The civil servants had initially planned to hold a demonstration on Monday in protest over the delayed bonuses but suspended it to allow for a meeting with government officials.

The cash-strapped government has offered to pay the bonuses with housing stands instead of cash.

However, it is reported that some civil servants want their bonuses in cash instead of land.



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