Zimbabwe economic crisis: Fuel price hike, national strike and a new currency

Daniel Fowler
January 14, 2019

Zimbabweans today called for a national shutdown to protest against the price hike of fuel announced by President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Saturday. An AFP journalist saw protesters looting a supermarket.

They came on the first day of a three-day general strike called by unions, amid an intensifying economic crisis.

Riot police in trucks patrolled downtown Harare while some shops remained closed.

Soldiers were deployed at a shopping centre in Bulawayo's township of Entumbane, where protesters looted shops.

In the poor neighbourhood of Mabvuku, witnesses said they had seen four civilians shot and injured by police.

"We have suffered enough", said the author Philani Nyoni, who was part of the protest in Bulawayo.

"Guests of Government by way of foreign missions and other registered foreign bodies, and tourists will fuel and refuel at designated points at the price of $1.24 (R17.16) per litre for diesel and $2.32 (R32.10) per litre for petrol, upon production of proper identification documents", he noted in his statement.

In Kazakhstan, Zimbabwe will explore possibilities of trade relations and cooperation in the mining sector as Kazakhstan has a wealth of mineral resources that it has exploited for the benefit of its country while Zimbabwe would like to export citrus fruit, coffee, tea and tobacco to Astana.

ZCTU said the government had demonstrated a lack of empathy for the already-overburdened poor.

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He said that from midnight Saturday petrol prices would rise from US$1.24 a litre to $3.31 and diesel from $1.36 a litre to $3.11. Media reports from Harare also said police conducted house-to-house searches looking for protesters. Party leader Nelson Chamisa - who narrowly lost to Mnangagwa in July's disputed election - has called on the president for dialogue to find ways to resolve the country's crippling economic crisis.

Announcing the price increases, President Emmerson Mnangagwa said customers were expected to use multiple currencies, including the troubled bond note, to purchase the precious liquid.

Others chanted opposition slogans and sang songs denouncing Mnangagwa, a former confidant of Mugabe who was elected as president in an election a year ago that the opposition said was rigged.

The shock price hike was a response to a "persistent shortfall in the fuel market attributable to the increased fuel usage in the economy and compounded by rampant illegal currency and fuel trading activities", Mnangagwa said.

Government doctors went on a 40-day strike beginning in early December demanding salaries in United States dollars and improved working conditions, while teachers' unions called a strike this week for better pay but their calls went largely unheeded.

The government claims fuel prices were lower than in other regional countries, saying some foreigners were taking advantage and buying fuel in bulk for resale elsewhere.

Mnangagwa is now in Moscow, Russia, as part of a tour of Eastern Europe where he hopes to solicit investors and strike deals in a bid to help Zimbabwe's ailing economy.

Mnangagwa, who took over from long-time ruler Robert Mugabe, has pledged to revive the country's moribund economy and end its global isolation.

Mnangagwa is now on a visit to Russian Federation and is planning to attend the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, next week to try to drum up global investment.

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