Business has been paralysed in the Zimbabwean cities of Harare and Bulawayo, following a call for a national stay-away 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 nationwide stay-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, according to video footage from the Centre For Innovation & Technology, a local news service.
In a televised address late Saturday, Mnangagwa said prices of petrol and diesel would 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.
“The government has officially declared its anti-worker, anti-poor and anti-people ideological position,” it said. “Workers’ salaries have been reduced to nothing and our suffering elevated to another level.”
Nelson Chamisa, who heads the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) said the situation was “descending into a humanitarian crisis”.
Evan Mawarire, a cleric and activist who led the 2016 anti-government protests that shut down major cities, added:
“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.