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(en) Zimbabwe General Strike Turns Violent

From "Lucien W." <029WALT@cosmos.wits.ac.za>
Date Thu, 12 Nov 1998 09:57:57 GMT + 2:00
Organization University of the Witwatersrand


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------- Forwarded Message Follows -------
Date:          Wed, 11 Nov 1998 21:04:26 +0100
From:          Fellesradet  for Afrika / Norwegian Council for 
               Africa <patrik.eklof@africainfo.no>

Zimbabwe: Rowdy youths destroy property in Mutare

Panafrican News Agency, 11 November 1998 

Mutare - The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions organised stay-away began in
Mutare Wednesday morning, with rowdy crowds vandalising property and looting
from Bluestar Service Station in the city. 

Restive youths blockaded roads leading to the city centre and a number of
vehicles were stoned and traffic lights vandalised. 

People who had ventured to go to work had to walk back home to Dangamvura,
Chikanga and Sakubva high density suburbs which are between 10 to 18 km from
the city. 

Bluestar Service Station was looted of its soft drinks and a number of goods
worth thousands of dollars but the police and army soon restored order. 

They maintained a heavy presence along the problem areas between the city
centre and the high density areas. 

The union called the mass stay-away from work to be embarked on every
Wednesday in protest against the recent fuel hike of 67 percent and the
subsequent increase in prices of most basic commodities. 

The labour movement demanded that the government decision to raise fuel
price be rescinded. 

The city centre was quiet and deserted with shops closed while the police
had running battles with groups of rowdy youths in Sakubva high density subur
b. 

The acting officer commanding Manicaland Province, Assistant Commissioner
Joshua Takawira, told the national news agency (ZIANA), the situation in
Mutare was ''under control''. 

A number of gunshots could be heard in Sakubva as ZIANA assessed the
situation in the city.

No commuter omnibuses were operating and the bus terminus in Sakubva was
virtually empty. 

''We have no casualties so far but a few vehicles have been stoned and
damaged and this includes a CID (Central Investigations Department)
Santana,'' Takawira said. ''What I know is that some activists came and
mobilised a number of unemployed people at Sakubva terminus and some
Mozambicans in the area to cause havoc by blocking the roads and do other
unnecessary things.'' 

The police also alleged that some activists had been ferried from Harare to
mobilise the sleepy Mutare community to take part in the stay-away. 

''We have information to that effect but we have not yet confirmed it,''
Takawira said, adding that a number of people had already been arrested in
connection with the looting and vandalism. 

Police could not immediately release number of those arrested.

********************

Zimbabwe: Stayaway paralyses business

Inter-Press Service (IPS), 11 November 1998

By Lewis Machipisa 

Harare - Zimbabwe's industries and streets were deserted Wednesday as
workers observed a call by the country's main labour body to stayaway from
work. 

Hordes of riot police, army and members of the Central Intelligence (CIO)
kept close guard of the situation across the country. 

The one-day stayaway called by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU)
crippled activity throughout the country resulting in loss in business worth
millions of dollars, aconomists say. 

The government and the business community had advised against the industrial
action for fear that it would further hurt the country's ailing economy. 

However, an upbeat ZCTU secretary-general, Morgan Tsvangirai, told IPS on
Wednesday that the workers had observed their call not to report for work. 

''It has been well observed nationally,'' said Tsvangirai. 

The ZCTU is demanding the scrapping of 67 percent hike in the price of fuel
announced by the government last week. 

The government has ruled out reneging on its decision to increase the price
of fuel, saying petrol in Zimbabwe is the cheapest in the region. 

Cases of violence were reported in the eastern border town of Mutare where a
joint security unit comprising the police, army and the CIO shot one person
dead in the city, a police spokesperson confirmed. 

''It was supposed to be stayaway where people would just stay at home and
not go out and march. I don't know what happened in Mutare,'' said Tsvangirai
. 

But across the country, streets were reduced to ghost towns. Some transport
operators even observed the stayaway and refused to ferry those who had
wanted to work. Those who managed, after being transported by the
state-controlled bus company and private vehicles, found doors at their
workplaces locked or were turned away by their employees. 

Some government officials, however, defied the stayaway call after the
Public Service Commission instructed all heads of ministries to record names
of employees who did not report for duty on Wednesday. It said the offenders
will be disciplined. The commission is responsible for hiring and firing
state workers. 

The government has shown its aversion to protests and is pushing in
parliament a bill that will make it illegal for anyone to stage a
demonstration. 

According to Home Affairs minister, Dumiso Dabengwa, the Public Order and
Security Bill, will require people to seek the police permission before
holding a demonstration. 

Rights groups say the bill is draconian and will further turnish Zimbabwe's
human rights image. 

The ZCTU has however vowed to continue with its one-day stayaways every
Wednesday, until the government addresses the plight of workers. 

Information minister, Chen Chimutengwende, warned this week that the weekly
industrial action could result in the closure of some companies. 

The standoff between the government and the workers widened Wednesday after
a tripartie negotiating forum involving the government, the business
community and the ZCTU was postponed indefinitely by the government because
the labour body had gone ahead with its strike action. 

Nathan Shamuyarira, acting minister of Public Service, Labour and Social
Welfare, said the ''treachery of the ZCTU leadership of calling for a
meeting while throttling the economy cannot be allowed to continue.'' 

''The ZCTU cannot be calling for a stay-way and negotiating at the same
time, and on the same day. The ZCTU must clarify its attitude to the
negotiations with government, and other stake holders,'' Shamuyarira said in
statement Wednesday. 

Shamuyarira said the government would consult with business and labour
separately before calling the next meeting. ''In addition, government will
examine all legal parameters of ensuring that the economy is protected from
those who want to ruin it by these stay- aways,'' he said. 

But the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce (ZNCC) said the government's
decision to hold the meeting without the ZCTU is not acceptable to them. 

''It defeats the spirit of tripartitism which we are calling for and shows
the divide-and-rule tactic the government wants to employ,'' said John
Makamure, an economist with the ZNCC. 

''We have to look at the fundamental problems facing the country which is
the depreciation of the local currency,'' he told IPS. 

The Zimbabwe dollar has lost more than half of its value since the beginning
of the year.

******************

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