Anger as Mnan­gagwa raises gas prices in Zim­babwe

Times of Oman - - WORLD -

HARARE: Zim­bab­weans re­acted with out­rage on Sun­day to a sharp rise in the price of fuel an­nounced by Pres­i­dent Em­mer­son Mnan­gagwa in a move to im­prove sup­plies as the coun­try strug­gles with its worst gaso­line short­ages in a decade.

After years in in­ter­na­tional iso­la­tion, Zim­babwe’s econ­omy has been in de­cline for more than a decade, with cash short­ages, high un­em­ploy­ment and re­cently a scarcity of ba­sic sta­ples like bread and cook­ing oil.

In a tele­vised ad­dress on Satur­day, Mnan­gagwa said prices of petrol and diesel would more than dou­ble to tackle a short­fall caused by in­creased de­mand and “ram­pant” il­le­gal trad­ing.

The main labour al­liance Zim­babwe Con­gress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) said the gov­ern­ment had demon­strated a lack of em­pa­thy for the al­ready over­bur­dened poor by in­tro­duc­ing the more than 100 per cent hike.

“Work­ers’ gov­ern­ment has of­fi­cially de­clared its anti-worker, anti-poor and anti-peo­ple ide­o­log­i­cal po­si­tion by in­creas­ing fuel prices. Work­ers’ salaries have been re­duced to noth­ing and our suf­fer­ing el­e­vated to an­other level,” it said.

Op­po­si­tion Move­ment for Demo­cratic Change (MDC) leader Nel­son Chamisa said: “We have a na­tional cri­sis which is de­scend­ing into a hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis.

“We be­lieve this cri­sis re­quires all hands on the deck. We will lead and stand ready to play a key role in find­ing a last­ing so­lu­tion.”

Evan Mawarire, a cleric and ac­tivist who led anti-gov­ern­ment protests in 2016 that shut down ma­jor cities, said: “You have cor­nered us and you leave us no choice. It’s time to mo­bilise ev­ery per­son who truly loves Zim­babwe.”

Look­ing tired after spend­ing his sec­ond night in a petrol queue in Avon­dale sub­urb, mo­torist Ed­more Phiri said: “We are not go­ing any­where with these piece­meal so­lu­tions that are not so­lu­tions. Those in gov­ern­ment may not ad­mit it but they know in their hearts that they have failed.

“You can’t have a coun­try where peo­ple sleep in cars for days for a com­mod­ity that should be read­ily avail­able.”

Mnan­gagwa, who took over from long­time leader Robert Mu­gabe and won a dis­puted elec­tion last July, also an­nounced a pack­age of mea­sures to help state work­ers after strikes by doc­tors and teach­ers over poor pay.

He said that from mid­night on Satur­day petrol prices would rise from US$1.24 a litre to $3.31 (2.89 eu­ros) and diesel from $1.36 a litre to $3.11.

“Fol­low­ing the per­sis­tent short­fall in the fuel mar­ket at­trib­ut­able to in­creased fuel usage in the econ­omy, and com­pounded by ram­pant il­le­gal cur­rency and fuel trad­ing ac­tiv­i­ties, gov­ern­ment has to­day de­cided on the fol­low­ing cor­rec­tive mea­sures,” he said.

The gov­ern­ment says the prices were lower than in other coun­tries in the re­gion and that some for­eign­ers were tak­ing ad­van­tage, buy­ing fuel in bulk in Zim­babwe for re­sale else­where.

The an­nounce­ment came after fuel short­ages which be­gan in Oc­to­ber last year wors­ened in re­cent weeks with mo­torists some­times spend­ing nights in queues to fuel pumps stretch­ing for kilo­me­tres.

He said the gov­ern­ment has in­tro­duced new mea­sures to curb a bur­geon­ing par­al­lel mar­ket in which fuel was be­ing sold at five times the of­fi­cial price.

The pres­i­dent warned that the gov­ern­ment would deal harshly with “el­e­ments bent on tak­ing ad­van­tage of the cur­rent fuel short­ages to cause and spon­sor un­rest and in­sta­bil­ity in the coun­try.”

Gov­ern­ment doc­tors went on a 40-day strike be­gin­ning in early De­cem­ber de­mand­ing salaries in US dol­lars and im­proved work­ing con­di­tions, while teach­ers’ unions called a strike this week for bet­ter pay but their calls went largely un­heeded. Mnan­gagwa an­nounced “a pack­age of mea­sures to cush­ion gov­ern­ment work­ers.”

Full story @ time­so­fo­man.com/world

- Reuters file photo

IL­LE­GAL TRAD­ING: A busy road dur­ing rush hour in Harare, Zim­babwe. In a tele­vised ad­dress on Satur­day, Pres­i­dent Em­mer­son Mnan­gagwa said prices of petrol and diesel would more than dou­ble to tackle a short­fall caused by in­creased de­mand and “ram­pant” il­le­gal trad­ing.

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