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Last Updated: Saturday, 26 April, 2003, 00:16 GMT 01:16 UK
Strike ends in Zimbabwe
Petrol station in Harare
Petrol is hard to find in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe's Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) has declared a three-day national strike against fuel price rises a huge success.

It said that 90% of its members had stayed at home in protest at the decision of Robert Mugabe's government last week to triple the price of petrol.

The strike, which ended on Friday, was also backed by the main opposition party the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) which has plans for industrial action of his own.

Police raided the party's offices in Harare during the day with a search warrant for subversive materials and arms of war.

Every person who has the effect of the fuel increases would realise that it is unreasonable
Collen Gwiyo

They arrested 26 people, most of them MDC supporters, but later released all but one after taking their names and addresses.

The MDC said the raid was part of a campaign of intimidation against party members and supporters.

In March, the MDC organised a widescale two-day strike in protest against what it described as President Mugabe's oppressive rule.

'Economic protest'

Many shops, businesses and factories across Zimbabwe shut down for this week's strike which the government had declared illegal.

Buses were not been running despite government warnings that operating licenses would be withdrawn.

News sign
Newspapers were not publishing

Lovemore Matombo, head of the ZCTU, said that the strike could resume next week if the government did not reverse its the fuel price rise.

The economy is in desperate trouble with inflation running at more than 200%, soaring unemployment and shortages of fuel and foreign currency.

The ZCTU argues that for many workers it will now cost almost as much to get to work as they earn in a day.

The ZCTU's deputy secretary general, Collen Gwiyo, told the BBC the strike was "largely an economic protest" rather than a political one.

"It has been a bread and butter campaign... every person who has the effect of the fuel increases would realise that it is unreasonable," he said.


The government said the 200% rise in petrol prices was necessary to help pay for fuel imports which have become scarce since shipments from Libya stopped last year.

It has also made some concessions, including raising the minimum wage to try and cushion workers from rising inflation and fuel prices.

But observers say the changes looked like a cheap incentive to try and bring the strike to a quick end.

And the incentive came coupled with the threat that the government was taking note of which companies were supporting the strike.

New action

The MDC said it was planning its own, new mass action soon.

The MDC strike in March shut down about 80% of businesses and industries in one of the biggest protests ever seen in Zimbabwe.

In addition to the raid in Harare, police arrested around 45 MDC supporters on Thursday as they mourned the death of a party activist allegedly fatally wounded by police.

Collen Gwiyo, Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions
"The nature of the campaign is not that of a political campaign...."

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