Thursday, 17 January, 2019

World's highest petrol price prompts strike in Zimbabwe

The Zimbabwe government hiked fuel prices sharply over the weekend sparking protests. AFP  Jekesai NJIKIZANA Anger as Mnangagwa raises petrol prices in Zimbabwe
Nellie Chapman | 14 January, 2019, 19:54

President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Saturday night announced a rise in the price of petrol and diesel in a move he said would end fuel shortages.

Shops closed in downtown Harare as riot police patrolled the streets and a military helicopter flew over the capital.

In Bulawayo's city centre, people marched to the court and disrupted proceedings. Police who tried to stop protestors were pelted with stones and they had to flee from the scene.

"We have suffered enough", author Philani Nyoni who was part of the protest in Bulawayo.

Early efforts by the government to stabilise Zimbabwe's economy appear to have exacerbated the situation, triggering massive devaluation of its surrogate and electronic currencies.

ZCTU said the government had demonstrated a lack of empathy for the already-overburdened poor.

Before the increase, diesel cost $1.38 a litre, and petrol $1.43 a litre.

Police tweeted on Monday that it had "noted with concern that the ongoing protests have turned violent", warning that "anyone caught on the wrong side of the law will face the full wrath thereof".

He was seen off at the Robert Mugabe International Airport by Vice President Constantino Chiwenga government ministers, service chiefs and senior government officials.

"Cognisant of the need to prevent generalised price increases for goods and services in the country, with the attendant hardships which that will entail especially to the commuting workforce, the government has made a decision to grant a rebate to all registered business entities in manufacturing, mining, commerce, agriculture and transport sectors", he said.

Government has accused the strike organisers of pushing a political "regime change" agenda and of "subversive political activities".

"It has become obvious that there is deliberate plan to undermine and challenge the prevailing constitutional order", government spokesman Nick Mangwana said in a statement late Sunday.

But the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Nelson Chamisa said: "We have a national crisis which is descending into a humanitarian crisis".

"We are earning low salaries, an average of $300 (about R4177), and now with the price increases of fuel and basic commodities, we are working just for transport", Mutasa said.

Government doctors went on a 40-day strike in early December, demanding salaries in U.S. dollars and improved working conditions, while teachers' unions called a strike this week for better pay but their calls went largely unheeded.

He said the government would crackdown on "elements bent on taking advantage of the current fuel shortages to cause and sponsor unrest and instability in the country".

"Details on the exact form the rebate system will take will be announced in due course... and given these cost mitigations and incentives, the government does not expect, and will not allow, businesses to trigger a new round of price increases".

Mnangagwa, who took over from long-time ruler Robert Mugabe, has pledged to revive the country's moribund economy and end its worldwide isolation.

Mnangagwa is now in Moscow, Russia, as part of a tour of Eastern Europe where he hopes to solicit investors and strike deals in a bid to help Zimbabwe's ailing economy.

Mnangagwa is now on a visit to Russian Federation and is planning to attend the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, next week to try to drum up global investment.