Published: Mon, January 14, 2019
Worldwide | By Jermaine Blake

Zimbabwe fuel hike sparks national shutdown

Zimbabwe fuel hike sparks national shutdown

- Zimbabwe's President on January 12 announced a more than 100 percent rise in the price of petrol and diesel in a move to improve supplies as the country struggles with its worst fuel shortages in a decade.

The stay-away comes as a foreign-exchange shortage has sparked scarcities of everything from fuel to bread, caused doctors to stay away from work and companies to cut or cease production because they can't import raw materials.

"Industry is facing imminent collapse", the CZI said.

"The house is burning", the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries said in a letter to the Industry Ministry.

There were clashes in the capital, Harare, and in Bulawayo, a city in the south, as police attempted to disperse groups of youths who had lit fires in streets, erected barricades and, in some cases, looted shops.

Inflation is already at a 10-year high of 31% and, in the past two weeks, public transport firms have tripled fares citing a shortage of fuel, which some have been buying on the black market. "We think it's an act of courage by people who have stayed away".

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Other innocent passersby who got entangled in the protests said they were concerned with their violent nature‚ a deviation from the peaceful call which had been made.

Mnangagwa said the government won't allow businesses to trigger a new round of price increases. The gasoline price compares with a global average of $1.08 (R15) a liter with Hong Kong, at $2.04 (R28.39 c), being the highest, according to GlobalPetrolPrices.com. 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 U.S. dollar. Fast-food company Simbisa Brands Ltd. said last month it would give customers a discount if they paid in hard currency.

The President is being accompanied by the Minister of Mines and Mining Development Winston Chitando, the Minister of Finance and Economic Development Professor Mthuli Ncube, the Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement Retired Air Chief Marshal Perrance Shiri, the Governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Dr John Mangudya and Deputy Chief Secretary in the President's Office responsible for communication Cde George Charamba and senior government officials.

"I am not a politician and neither am I an economist but you don't need a rocket scientist to tell you that we are now headed for the worst following the fuel price madness", said William Masuku, 32, a vehicle dealer in Bulawayo, the country's second largest city.

Zimbabwe will introduce a new currency in the next 12 months, the finance minister said, as a shortage of U.S. dollars has plunged the financial system into disarray and forced businesses to close.

The protests were triggered by President Emmerson Mnangagwa's decision to hike fuel prices on Saturday night by over 150% in the wake of acute shortages of the commodity that has forced motorists to queue for days. "I am for a national shutdown".

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