Zimbabwe's public sector unions split on Wednesday about the possibility of launching a national strike after salary negotiations with the government failed, leaving the country to the limit of the possibility of further unrest.
Zimbabwe was rocked by violent protests for three days in mid-January that led to a brutal crackdown on security.
The heavy response from the security forces raised fears that under President Emmerson Mnangagwa the country was returning to the kind of authoritarianism seen during Robert Mugabe's 37-year rule.
Mnangagwa's spokesman said troops will remain on the streets and that the state will block the internet again if violence escalates.
Teachers and other state officials are demanding wage increases and dollar payments to help them avoid spiraling inflation and an economic crisis that has reduced the supply of money, fuel and medicine to state hospitals.
Human rights groups say at least 12 people were killed this month after a three-day strike at home because of rising fuel prices that led to street protests and a crackdown on security services. The government says three people have died.
In a union meeting, the government proposed granting land for the construction of houses and food for the workers, trade union officials said. Public sector unions had on Monday issued the government with a 48-hour ultimatum to make a new wage offer or face a strike.
The Apex Council, which represents 17 public sector unions, did not reach agreement on a strike during a brief meeting that was cut short when authorities accused each other of working for the opposition or the government.
"The Apex Council meeting ended prematurely and the people left. There is no consensus. How are we going to go on strike when our fellow unions are coming in and saying that some unions have been paid?" said Raymond Majongwe, secretary general of the Union of Progressive Teachers of Zimbabwe.
He said his union is among those accused by colleagues of being paid by the opposition and donors to go on strike and cause violence, charges he denied.
The largest teachers' union called for a strike on February 5.
& # 39; Bread & butter & # 39;
Mnangagwa – who came to power in November 2017, after Mugabe's ruler was forced to resign in a coup – vowed to revive the economy and break Mugabe's policy. But frustration over the economic crisis is mounting and analysts say the pace of economic and political reform is too slow for impatient citizens.
Wedneaday's Mnangagwa has chosen a 24-member advisory board to advise him on economic reforms, a government source said.
The 76-year-old leader vowed to investigate repression of protesters and bring measures to deal with the economic crisis, but the opposition does not trust him.
His spokesman said it would take time to rebuild an economy that has been suffering for decades.
"There are fundamental issues that the government can not avoid, things are difficult," George Charamba told a state radio station in Harare.
"But it would be a sad day to think that the only way to remedy such a problem is to do more damage to the already damaged economy through chaos, looting and chaos."
Charamba said police and soldiers would be on the streets and that the government would shut down the Internet again if violence erupted. He said earlier that the crackdown was a preview of how the government would react to future protests.