Zimbabwe: fuel protest

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Riot police in Zimbabwe have fired tear gas to disperse residents in a township near the capital Harare protesting at last week's fuel price rises.

Riot police patrolled the militant opposition stronghold of Mabvuku - 20km from central Harare - after dismantling barricades set up by anti-fuel protestors.

A bus had its windows smashed and one person was arrested in the protest.

A witness told Reuters news agency: "The situation looked tense and I had to turn back my vehicle and drive back into town for fear it would be stoned."

Strike call

The Zimbabwe Confederation of Trade Unions has warned the government of possible strikes unless it reverses last week's 70% fuel price rises by the end of this month.

State radio reported that leaders of the township residents' association met bus operators with police acting as mediators.

The residents were demanding 60% fare increases be dropped.

In southern Harare, some buses cut their fares and others did not run after owners feared violence if they did not cut their fares.

In central Harare, police manned roadblocks for the first time around the city in anticipation of trouble.

Zimbabwe's business community says the latest fuel price increases will force companies to close.

Zimbabwe is suffering its worst economic crisis since independence in 1980.

The price of fuel had been frozen since October last year, when a 15% increase was announced.

Increases in bread and other staples at that time sparked off days of rioting in the densely populated suburbs of Harare.

-- Rachel Gibson (rgibson@hotmail.com), June 19, 2001

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