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Page last updated at 15:44 GMT, Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Zimbabwe cholera march broken up

Police in Zimbabwe
This is the second time in a month a health protest has been broken up

Police in the Zimbabwean capital Harare have broken up a protest march by doctors and nurses angered at the worsening cholera outbreak.

Witnesses said officers used batons to disperse and beat up the crowd of health workers.

The authorities also prevented trade union members staging a protest over the country's banking meltdown.

The defence minister meanwhile has said soldiers who rioted earlier this week over cash shortages will be arrested.

On Monday, dozens of troops ran amok in Harare after losing their temper while queuing up to withdraw cash.

"Measures are being taken that this will not happen again. These incidents are being investigated and those culpable would be brought to book," AFP news agency quotes Defence Minister Sydney Sekeramayi as saying.

In some parts of town there is raw sewage running down streets
Harare diarist Esther

The BBC's Jonah Fisher in neighbouring South Africa says two demonstrations had been planned for central Harare on Wednesday by medical professionals and trade unionists.

But, he says, as is often the case in Zimbabwe, riot police moved in before the protests had properly begun and relative calm has now been returned to Harare's streets.

Because of a national cash shortage, Zimbabweans can only withdraw small amounts of money every day - often barely enough to pay for a bus fare home.

The cholera outbreak has killed at least 565 people since August and more than 12,545 cases of cholera have been recorded over the same period, according to the latest statement from the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Most of Zimbabwe's capital has been without water since Sunday.

"In some parts of town there is raw sewage running down streets," BBC News website Harare diarist Esther says.

The spread of cholera has been aided by the collapse of Zimbabwe's health and sanitation systems amid a prolonged economic and political crisis.

Meanwhile, it has been confirmed that the Limpopo River, on Zimbabwe's border with South Africa, has been contaminated with cholera.

Zimbabwe cholera
The health sector has been unable to cope with the cholera outbreak

South African local health department spokesman Phuti Seloba has warned people not to use the river water at all.

Cases of cholera have been reported either side of Zimbabwe's borders with South Africa, Botswana and Mozambique.

The BBC's Peter Biles reports from the South African town of Musina, near the border with Zimbabwe, that cholera patients are being treated at an emergency centre on the lawn in front of the hospital.

One cholera victim from Harare told him that on Zimbabwe's side of the border, toilets had not functioned for a month, and people were "defecating everywhere".

Meanwhile Amnesty International said a human rights activist was abducted at dawn from her home in Norton, south of Harare, by a group of at least 12 armed plain-clothes men, who identified themselves as policemen.

The organisation challenged Zimbabwe's government immediately to disclose the whereabouts of Jestina Mukoko, who is the director of the Zimbabwe Peace Project.

Shortages

The government has blamed its crisis on Western sanctions it says are aimed at trying to bring down President Robert Mugabe.

[Lifting import duty] is the best Christmas present we can present to consumers this festive season
Central bank governor Gideon Gono

But the sanctions imposed after allegations of electoral fraud and political violence are aimed at Mr Mugabe and his close associates and consist of travel bans and a freeze on their foreign assets.

Amid Zimbabwe's severe economic crisis, central bank governor Gideon Gono will lift import duty on basic goods, the state-run Herald newspaper reports.

"I believe this is the best Christmas present we can present to consumers this festive season," the Herald quotes him as saying.

The latest estimated annual inflation rate was 231,000,000%, and just one adult in 10 is thought to have a regular job.

Updated cholera map



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