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Business has been paralysed in the Zimbabwean cities of Harare and Bulawayo, following a call for a national stayaway and shutdown demonstration by the congress of trade unions (ZCTU).
ZCTU called upon Zimbabweans to stay away from their workplaces, businesses and schools from Monday to Wednesday, as a way of protesting ‘the general astronomical price increases since last year against stagnant salaries’.
‘‘After wide consultations, the ZCTU General Council resolved to call for a nation wide stay a away with effect from midnight today following the insensitive and provocative increase of fuel price by the President of Zimbabwe.’‘
The strike on Monday became violent as protesters barricaded roads and burned tyres in a suburb of Zimbabwe’s capital Harare, while police fired teargas to disperse youths protesting outside the high court in Zimbabwe’s second city of Bulawayo.
In a televised address late Saturday, Mnangagwa said prices of petrol and diesel would be more than double to tackle a shortfall caused by increased demand and “rampant” illegal trading.
Petrol prices have been raised from $1.24 a litre to $3.31 (2.89 euros) and diesel from $1.36 a litre to $3.11.
The president’s announcement came after fuel shortages which began in October last year worsened in recent weeks with motorists sometimes spending nights in fuel pump queues that stretch for kilometres.
ZCTU said the government had demonstrated a lack of empathy for the already-overburdened poor.
“You have cornered us and you leave us no choice. It’s time to mobilise every person who truly loves Zimbabwe.”
Teachers, who are not represented by ZCTU, are planning a nationwide strike from Jan. 22, and civil servants have threatened to join them.
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The acute shortage of U.S. dollars has made it hard for President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government to import not only fuel but also drugs and other goods.
Zimbabwe abandoned its own currency in 2009 after it was wrecked by hyperinflation, and adopted the greenback and other hard currencies such as sterling and the South African rand.
But now there is not enough hard currency to back up more than $10 billion in electronic funds trapped in local bank accounts, prompting demands from businesses and civil servants for cash that can be deposited and used to make payments.
Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube told a townhall meeting on Friday a new local currency would be introduced in less than 12 months.
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