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Tuesday, 10 December, 2002, 13:08 GMT
Zimbabwe strike flops
A grandmother feeds donated bread to her family in Zimbabwe
The country's economy is in tatters
Banks, shops and industries are all open as usual in the Zimbabwean capital, Harare, despite the call for a national strike in protest at the economic crisis.

The BBC's reporter Lewis Machipisa said the strike looks like it is a major flop.

Traffic is heavy and it looks like any other normal working day, he told the BBC's Network Africa programme.

This festive season will be bleak

Alex Tamba
Worker

The strike was called by a coalition of civic groups in Zimbabwe, the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA).

The police accused the organisers of seeking to cause unrest and declared the action illegal.

They arrested Wellington Chibebe, secretary general of the 200,000 strong Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), which has backed the strike, along with other unionists.

The opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) also supported the stayaway. No marches were planned for fear of sparking a police clamp-down.

'Intimidation'

Some workers said the stayaway had not been well organised, while others said they feared losing their jobs in the run-up to Christmas.

"I am only trying to feed my family. It's harder and harder and this festive season will be bleak," said Alex Tamba, a father of four.

Riot police truck
The police have wide powers to stop demonstrations

"I didn't know there was going to be a strike. I only heard this morning on radio something about an illegal strike," said George Matambo, a central Harare shop worker.

But NCA chairman Lovemore Madhuku said he was not disappointed and would call another stayaway on Friday.

"We are actually happy that some people took heed of our call, given the political culture of intimidation in this country," he said.

Tough new security laws which outlaw public gatherings and impose long prison terms have made it difficult to organise strikes, say union leaders.

Foreign currency

Police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena said that 13 people had been arrested for stoning buses, putting up barricades and organising the strike.

He said the MDC had paid people in foreign currency to set up barricades.

Riot police truck
The police have wide powers to stop demonstrations

Zimbabwe is suffering its worst economic crisis in two decades with record high unemployment, inflation and crippling fuel and food shortages.

President Robert Mugabe is blamed by many for creating the crisis through his controversial land redistribution programme and poor economic policies.

He blames an international plot, organised by Britain, to bring down his government.

The NCA is a coalition of student and church groups, political parties and rights groups and has led several previous protests in the past two years against President Mugabe's policies.

Its strike calls have never met with a massive public response.

But in 2000, the NCA spearheaded the campaign which defeated Mr Mugabe's proposals for a new constitution.


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28 Nov 02 | Africa
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