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» 01.03.2010 - Heading for another economic disaster
» 18.06.2009 - Zimbabwe’s civil servants threaten to strike
» 25.02.2009 - Zim teachers end year long strike
» 09.05.2008 - Zimbabwe unionists charged for inciting uprising
» 23.04.2008 - Unionists campaign against Zimbabwe's arm shipment
» 20.02.2008 - EU renews Zimbabwe ban
» 30.04.2007 - Watchdog condemns NGO extermination in Zimbabwe
» 23.01.2007 - More govt workers join strike over poor pay

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Labour | Politics | Economy - Development

Zimbabwe opposition groups join forces

afrol News / IRIN, 6 September - Unionists, students and political opposition parties will launch nationwide protests to force President Robert Mugabe's government to improve the living conditions of Zimbabweans.

The decision to protest against low living standards came shortly after religious leaders called a meeting at which all the parties agreed work together to unseat the ruling ZANU-PF government.

Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) president Lovemore Matombo said nationwide rolling mass action would begin on 13 September to force government and employers to address the increasing hardships among Zimbabweans. If there was no response to their grievances they would stage a two-day demonstration the following week and, if necessary, week-long protests.

"The labour organisation has resolved to roll out the demonstrations until we are awarded salaries that are above the poverty datum line of Z$75,000 (US$300) a month," Mr Matombo said.

In the past few years, mass action against the Mugabe government's policies either quickly petered out, were stopped by the security forces, or failed because people did not heed the rallying call.

But last week the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party's founding president, Morgan Tsvangirai, led members of the party leadership through the city centre of the capital, Harare, to deliver a petition to parliament demanding better living conditions for all citizens.

In terms of Zimbabwean law, all protest require police permission, which Mr Tsvangirai did not obtain, but security forces made no attempt to break up the "illegal" march or arrest participants.

Zimbabwe's economy is in meltdown, with annual inflation hovering at about 1,000 percent. The manufacturing industry has either collapsed or relocated to neighbouring states and unemployment has risen to more than 70 percent; 20 percent of sexually active adults are infected with HIV/AIDS and the average life expectancy is 39 years - among the world's lowest.

According to UNAIDS, about 83 percent of Zimbabweans live on US$ 2 or less a day; hyperinflation has made staple foods scarce, and day-to-day living is punctuated by routine electricity outages, and water and fuel shortages.

Although mass action campaigns so far have largely failed, student leaders said the deepening hardship could make things different this time around. The Zimbabwe National Students Union, which represents 50,000 students nationwide, has mobilised its members to protest specific issues, such as the "prohibitively high" college and university fees, which was putting further study beyond the reach of many young people.

Student union president Promise Mkhwananzi said "the government has abandoned its social responsibility to provide affordable, quality education and, as students, we are prepared to defend our rights, including going into the streets to demand our educational rights."

Nelson Chamisa, spokesman for the MDC faction led by Mr Tsvangirai, told the UN media 'IRIN' in an interview that the recent demonstration led by Mr Tsvangirai was "just a warning shot, a harbinger of a more protracted, nationwide and decentralised response by the people of Zimbabwe to express their need for a free, prosperous and democratic society."

President Mugabe recently warned political opponents that any demonstrations would be "suppressed".

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