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Leader of the MDC, Morgan Tsvangirai
The government always thinks politically, not economically
 real 28k

Information Minister Dr Jonathan Moyo
"This resettlement programme is a priority for the government of Zimbabwe"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 2 August, 2000, 19:22 GMT 20:22 UK
Strike paralyses Zimbabwe
Downtown Harare, deserted because of the strike
The strike left the streets of central Harare deserted
Business and farm activity across Zimbabwe has been severely disrupted by a general strike called in protest at what unions see as a collapse of law and order.

In the capital, Harare, and in towns across the country most shops and factories remained closed, and all but essential work ceased on white-owned farms.

Within this month we will have concluded this exercise

President Mugabe

The one-day stoppage was called by the powerful Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) following months of escalating violence ahead of the recent elections, and continued occupations of white-owned farms by supporters of President Robert Mugabe.

In his first comments following the strike, Mr Mugabe told a press conference that the people carrying out the occupations would be resettled by the end of the month.

Occupations to end

"We will be resettling those who are in need of land, both those... occupying the farms at the moment and those who have not done so who are in the communal areas or elsewhere in need of the farms," Mr Mugabe said. Mugabe said.

Passengers wait at a normally crowded Harare bus stop
There were few passengers at this normally crowded bus stop
Speaking after talks with the visiting South African President, Thabo Mbeki, Mr Mugabe said that veterans would be removed from those farms not being used for resettlement.

The ZCTU said the strike was highly successful and that 90% of workers heeded their call to stay away.

However state-run media described the stoppage as a flop, saying that civil servants, teachers and nurses had turned up for work.

Correspondents say that only fast-food shops remained open in Harare's main shopping district, with most supermarkets and banks closed for the day. By noon, usually bustling car parks and street markets in Harare were virtually deserted.

"Everyone around us is out, so we are closing too," said Ian Sibanda, a furniture store manager. "Let's hope the government sees people are serious about this."

Correspondents say that support for the strike in Zimbabwe's urban areas reflects profound dissatisfaction with President Mugabe's government, reflected in recent elections results.

Farms stuck to milking

On commercial farms, the strike was even more widely observed, with only essential tasks like milking still carried out.

Kobus Ferreira, ranager of
Police refuse to heed a farm manager's complaints
The strike was backed by the Commercial Farmers Union which represents white farmers, in protest at the illegal occupation of hundreds of farms - a situation it describes as close to "total anarchy".

Groups of self-styled war veterans, some of them armed, did visit some white-owned farms to tell those who participated in the strike that they would be prevented from resuming operations.

However, the BBC's Grant Ferrett says that after fears of violence in the run-up to the strike, it proved to be a curiously quiet day.

He says that the fact that the stoppage was scaled down from three days to just one significantly helped to reduce tensions.

Government response

A union official said the leadership had resolved to limit the stoppage to Wednesday to give the government a chance to respond.

The government has previously condemned the strike action as illegal and, before Mr Mugabe's latest statement, warned that it intended to step up its controversial land resettlement programme.

Correspondents say, however, that Zimbabwe does not have the financial resources to do so.

On Tuesday, the government bowed to pressure and announced the devaluation of the Zimbabwe dollar in what it said was a short-term measure to arrest the current economic decline.

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See also:

02 Aug 00 | Business
Zimbabwe devalues currency
29 Jul 00 | Africa
MDC to join Zimbabwe strike
01 Aug 00 | Africa
Zimbabwe 'murder plot' fails
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