Zimbabwe:Huge fuel price increases raise specter of unrestgreenspun.com : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread
Huge fuel price increases raise specter of unrest, national strike
By ANGUS SHAW The Associated Press 6/13/01 7:31 PM
HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) -- The government increased the price of gasoline by more than 70 percent Wednesday, and Zimbabwe's labor unions threatened to shut down the economy with a national strike in response.
The price increase and strike call have raised fears of civil unrest in Zimbabwe, where poor people on the capital's outskirts already often spend a third their paycheck on transportation.
A 15 percent fuel rise increase in October, along with increases on bread, milk and other foodstuffs, touched off rioting in poor suburbs of Harare.
"This is terrible news. I don't think it has sunk in yet, but when people realize it there will be trouble," said cab driver Martin Jambwa. "I don't know if I'll be able to stay in business."
Regular gas goes up to $5.17 a gallon from $2.96. The price of diesel fuel used by industry rises by 67 percent. Transportation prices are expected to soar.
The government says the price rise is needed to bring in more money so it can continue to pay for the rising cost of imported fuel.
The African nation has suffered acute fuel shortages in recent years. In 1999, foreign fuel suppliers cut off shipments to demand payment of some of the state-run National Oil Company's spiraling debts. Long lines of vehicles form daily at gas stations to wait for scarce fuel deliveries.
After an emergency meeting, the Zimbabwe Confederation of Trade Unions, which represents 90 percent of the country's organized labor, said it will call a national strike if the fuel hikes are not canceled. It gave the government until Saturday to roll back the price increases and said the strike could start as early as next week.
Mismanagement and official corruption in the National Oil Company were being "pushed onto the back of workers. It is a time bomb," federation spokesman Collen Gwiyo said.
Lucia Matibenga, the federation's vice president, said impoverished workers were shocked by the fuel hikes.
"The situation is very tense. It could ignite any time," she said.
Zimbabwe's business community described the fuel prices as a crippling blow that could force more company closures. At least 400 businesses have already closed down so far this year as operating costs have soared, according to the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries.
Inflation is running about 70 percent in the ailing economy.
-- Martin Thompson (firstname.lastname@example.org), June 14, 2001