ZIMBABWE – Teachers in Zimbabwe endured a bleak Christmas Day after they waited in vain to get paid, but that country’s cash-strapped government now says they could be paid in time for New Year.

Just over a week ago public service, labour and social welfare minister, Prisca Mupfumira, said the Zimbabwe government was “mobilising funds” to pay civil servants, including teachers.

“Treasury is mobilisng resources for salaries and any other obligation, including bonuses. We will notify workers in due course when we get exact dates from treasury,” Mupfumira was quoted as saying in the State owned Herald Newspaper on December 17.

In a brief statement, which only emerged on Christmas Day, the treasury said teachers salaries for December would now only be paid on Tuesday, December 29. Teachers had expected to be paid before Christmas Day as is the norm.

“The Minister of Finance and Economic Development Patrick Chinamasa, also announced the postponement of pay dates for the rest of the public service from 29 December to 5 January 2016.”

The government has also backtracked on bonus payments, saying “the traditional annual bonus will not be paid to any civil servants, including soldiers, at this stage”. In the past civil servants have been paid bonuses in November.

Meanwhile President Robert Mugabe, who turns 92 in February, came under heavy criticism from opposition parties after he threw a lavish State banquet for Cabinet ministers, legislators and top officials of his Zanu PF party on Monday.

“He has not given his government workers bonuses, he was in another extravagant party in Victoria Falls and ironically, he authored the problems that stole the Christmas cheer from the people,” People’s Democratic Party spokesperson, Jacob Mafume, was quoted as saying by an independent daily newspaper, NewsDay.

“Mugabe is not at all bothered by the fact that more than 80% of the people are living on less than $1 per day,” opposition MDC-T spokesperson, Obert Gutu said.