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Zimbabwe strike planned Thursday despite police order

Motorists queue to buy petrol in Harare, Zimbabwe, October 8, 2018. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo

Zimbabwe’s largest trade union called for national protests on Thursday as the country’s economic crisis worsens, but police said they would halt any demonstrations in Harare due to a cholera outbreak.

The Zimbabwe Congress Trade Union (ZCTU) said the strike was triggered by sharp price hikes, a new tax on electronic transactions and daily shortages ranging from fuel to drugs.

“We are going to approach the courts. We do not think the police have a legal basis (for any ban),” ZCTU president Peter Mutasa said on Tuesday.

“They are just trying to intimidate people into not joining the march,” he said, adding he would still call for a national shutdown.

Zimbabwe’s moribund economy has hit new lows in recent days with shops struggling to stock shelves, prices of goods such as cooking oil rising rapidly due to panic buying and long queues outside petrol stations.

A two-cents tax for every dollar of electronic payments was introduced last week as President Emmerson Mnangagwa seeks to revive the debt-ridden economy.

The local “bond note” currency, which in theory has the same value as the US dollar, has been in freefall in recent weeks, raising fears of a return to the hyper-inflation that wrecked national finances in 2009.

“It’s either we do nothing but die in our homes because pharmacies are closing and hospitals have no drugs (or we) speak up and stand up for our rights,” said Mutasa.

Zimbabwe has announced job cuts for civil servants as part of reforms to cut expenditure.

“We must all be realistic… Whatever some may claim, there are no silver bullets or quick fixes,” Mnangagwa said Monday calling for people not to panic.

Public gatherings were banned in Harare last month to tackle the cholera outbreak that has claimed at least 49 lives. Authorities have said the disease is now under control.

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