- Zimbabwean trade unions had called for massive marches to protest the government's economic and rights policies all over the country today, only to see police seal off gathering places and arresting union leaders. Frightened citizens soon emptied the streets and went home.
The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) today had called upon Zimbabweans in all parts of the country to take to the streets to protest the harsh conditions they live under. ZCTU was to demand an increase of minimum wages, tax reductions, free access to AIDS-curing antiretrovirals, a price stabilisation of basic commodities and a "stop to harassment of informal economy workers."
The call for mass protests came after Zimbabwe's main opposition, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), has become too split to mobilise mass action and after years of deteriorating economic conditions. In today's Zimbabwe, unemployment and poverty rates are at around 80 percent, life expectancy is dropping, food shortages are becoming normal and inflation stands at over 1000 percent.
While frustrated at the rapidly deteriorated living conditions, relatively few citizens showed up at noon today, when protest marches were to start. Earlier attempts of mass mobilisations have been brutally stopped by armed security forces and police.
Also today's mass action against the Robert Mugabe government ended before it had started. Massive police presence at the roads leading to the protests' gathering places hindered most from reaching them. In Harare, all vehicles heading towards meeting points were sent back by the police.
Union leaders that were able to reach the meeting places by foot were swiftly detained. According to a ZCTU spokesman in Harare, around 500 persons had been detained around the country. Also ZCTU Secretary-General Wellington Chibhebhe and President Lovemore Matombo were arrested, together with more than ten other ZCTU leaders.
The Mugabe regime already in advance had warned that it considered the protest marches illegal and would meet protesters with armed security forces. Only in Harare, an estimated 2,000 police officers were deployed in the streets.
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