Zimbabwe's civil servants have been awarded a 5.3% inflation-related salary increment, the Public service Minister has revealed.
The increase, which will be backdated to January this year, is set to push the country's civil service wage bill to $2.6 billion. This is almost 68% of the national budget announced by Finance Minister Tendai Biti for this year.
Confirming the development, Public Service Minister Lucia Matinenga told the state media on Thursday that civil servants will receive the increment as promised in the budget.
She said: "The budget passed through Parliament and it became law and it means no one should break the law.
"The money might be delayed as was the case here, but government has a duty to make sure that it respects the laws of the country."
This latest increment is unlikely to appease the country's 230,000-strong workforce, the majority of whom struggle to support their families.
Currently, the least paid civil servant gets $296 per month, which is far below the poverty datum line pegged at $600 per month.
Takavafira Zhou, president of the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ), dismissed the latest announcement, saying the figure should be viewed as a cost of living adjustment rather than a salary increment.
He told SWRA that as far as civil servants are concerned, the government has not yet resolved the issue of their paltry salaries.
He said: "As civil servants we want a salary of $600, in line with the poverty datum line. As unions, we will continue to lobby the government until our demands are met."
Biti has accused ZANU PF and military chiefs of failing to remit funds from the sale of diamonds from the Chiadzwa fields.
Last month, Biti's disclosure that only $217 remained in public coffers caused panic among Zimbabweans, with many questioning how a country endowed with such extensive mineral resources could be that broke.
Zimbabwe has the second largest reserves of platinum in the world and also boasts deposits of gold, coal, diamonds, granite, nickel, copper, zinc, limestone, phosphate, clay and dolomite, among other resources.