Petrol, Diesel Prices Go Up in Zimbabwe As Cash Crunch Grips Nation

President Emmerson Mnangagwa

President Emmerson Mnangagwa

Commuters were stranded in Zimbabwe's two main cities Monday as angry protesters reacting to the weekend more than doubling of fuel prices, burned tyres and used rocks to barricade roads and blocked buses from carrying passengers.

In Belarus, President Mnangagwa will focus on mining and agricultural equipment, having already agreed to cooperate in those areas and Zimbabwe is already benefitting from mining equipment and cooperation in the energy sector.

Petrol prices rose from $1.24 a litre to $3.31 (2.89 euros), with diesel up from $1.36 a litre to $3.11 starting Sunday. Workers' trade unions have called for a three-day nationwide shutdown in protest.

Doctors in state hospitals went on a 40-day strike beginning early December demanding salaries be paid in U.S. dollars and improved work conditions. The roots of the crisis lie in a 2009 decision to abolish the Zimbabwe dollar in favour of the use of other currencies, primarily the USA dollar.

The southern African nation faces a severe shortage of USA dollar cash and confidence in its bond notes, which are supposed to be worth the same as the dollar, is still low.

"We are not going anywhere with these piecemeal solutions that are not solutions".

Mnangagwa's announcement of a 150% increase in fuel prices was greeted with shock in Zimbabwe where unemployment stands at over 80%. This government is trying to play with us.

Riot police have fired tear gas to disperse demonstrators in the capital Harare.

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Soldiers were deployed at a shopping centre in Bulawayo's township of Entumbane where protesters looted shops. Crowds swelled as ordinary citizens joined with protesting activists to add their voices to the anti-fuel price demonstrations.

The government of Zimbabwe issued a statement condemning the riots as Western-sponsored acts.

"Cognisant of the need to prevent generalised price increases for goods and services in the country, with the attendant hardships which that will entail especially to the commuting workforce, the government has chose to grant a rebate to all registered business entities in manufacturing, mining, commerce, agriculture and transport sectors", he said. Media reports from Harare also said police conducted house-to-house searches looking for protesters.

The opposition Movement for Democratic Change led by Nelson Chamisa challenged the results of the poll in court but lost with the Constitutional Court citing insufficient evidence of voter fraud.

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.

However, since the government's introduction of a two percent transaction tax in October, Zimbabwe's money woes have worsened and inflation has soared to double-digit figures since then.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa left the capital this morning for a 4-nation visit of Eastern Europe to deepen and strengthen economic cooperation between Zimbabwe and those countries.

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