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Africa

Zimbabwe's diamonds used to fund wage hikes

media Wikimedia Commons

In Zimbabwe, it has emerged that earnings from the sale of the country's controversial diamonds are being used to fund a wage hike for tens of thousands of struggling civil servants. President Robert Mugabe's opponents have criticised the move as a vote-buying ploy, and have called for greater transparency in the way the country's diamond wealth is handled.

Zimbabwe's least paid worker is now getting 174 euros, up from 88 euros, which makes life easier for many public servants, but the hike is shrouded in controversy.

The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC)’s finance minister Tendai Biti is, in theory, in control of government purse strings – and maintains there is no money for payhikes.

Biti’s party now says he was kept in the dark about the diamond money used to fund the increase.

ZMDC, the state-run mining firm, may have handed over 26 million euros from gem sales to top up the civil servants’ wage bill.

President Robert Mugabe's side of the power-sharing government is claiming credit for being able to do what the MDC could not.

MDC spokesman Douglas Mwonzora says ZANU-PF wants to get political mileage out of this.

He says the way the country's diamond wealth from the eastern Marange district is being handled, is not transparent.

Marange was the scene of a brutal army clampdown in 2008 – and Western countries want there to be more openness in the way the controversial gems are mined and sold.

The pay hike from diamonds may boost Mugabe’s popularity ahead of elections the president wants to hold before the end of the year.

That will however depend upon the mining firm being able to maintain its payouts.

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