Zimbabwe cops kill striker

November 18, 1998

Zimbabwe cops kill striker

By Norm Dixon

On November 11, Zimbabwe riot police fired tear gas canisters at 25,000 striking workers and unemployed youth in the small town of Mutare, about 270 kilometres east of the capital, Harare. At least one worker was killed when he was hit by live rounds.

The strikers were taking part in the first of a series of weekly national strikes called by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU).

Police also fired on strikers in the farming centre of Marondera, 75 kilometres east of Harare.

The clashes came despite the decision by the ZCTU not to hold demonstrations or rallies to coincide with the stay-aways. This would give President Robert Mugabe the opportunity to "militarise the whole situation", explained ZCTU general secretary Morgan Tsvangirai.

In Harare, most factories and businesses were closed. Police and troops, backed by helicopters, patrolled the townships.

Bulawayo, Zimbabwe's second major city, was also at a standstill. All major towns were deserted.

The ZCTU on November 8 announced that it would hold weekly general strikes until Mugabe's government reverses massive fuel price increases. The unions have also called for an across-the-board 20% wage increase.

The government on November 3 approved a 67% increase in the price of petrol and diesel, and 350% increase in kerosene prices.

Bus and taxi fares immediately doubled, hitting workers and the poor hard. In response, thousands protested in Harare and Bulawayo. Mugabe ordered thousands of troops into the streets.

The government backed down over the kerosene increase but refused to budge on petrol increases. On November 10, prices of sugar and cooking oil increased 20%, fuelling the workers' anger.

Tsvangirai warned that if the government failed to respond to the unions' demands, the ZCTU would increase the number of days each week in which workers would stay home.

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