Petrol Price more than doubles overnight in Zimbabwe

President Emmerson Mnangagwa

Zimbabwe economic crisis: Fuel price hike, national strike and a new currency

In Chitungwiza, protesters are marching along Seke Road, near Chikwanha Shopping Centre.

Zimbabwe was on edge yesterday in anticipation of further price hikes after the government raised the price of fuel by more than 200 percent just a few hours after Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube announced that the country was all but set to introduce a local currency in the next 12 months as Harare battles a debilitating cash crunch.

Roads leading into the capital from some townships have been blocked by protesters, and commuters are being forced to disembark and go home.

"We have suffered enough", author Philani Nyoni who was part of the protest in Bulawayo.

"We want Mnangagwa to know our displeasure in his failure", an angry Mthandazo Moyo told AFP.

"It's tense since early morning", Nhamo Tembo, an Epworth resident said.

After years in global 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 late Saturday, Mnangagwa said prices of petrol and diesel would more than double to tackle a shortfall caused by increased fuel usage and "rampant" illegal trading.

"Guests of Government by way of foreign missions and other registered foreign bodies, and tourists will fuel and refuel at designated points at the price of $1.24 (R17.16) per litre for diesel and $2.32 (R32.10) per litre for petrol, upon production of proper identification documents", he noted in his statement.

Following a de facto coup in November 2017 long-time ruler Robert Mugabe stepped down, and after a disputed election in July that saw Mnangagwa elected into office, the leader has promised an economic turnaround for the impoverished African nation.

Government has accused the strike organisers of pushing a political "regime change" agenda and of "subversive political activities".

Nelson Chamisa, who heads the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) said the situation was "descending into a humanitarian crisis".

He has announced a package of measures to help state workers after strikes by doctors and teachers over poor pay.

Government doctors went on a 40-day strike beginning in early December demanding salaries in USA dollars and improved working conditions, while teachers' unions called a strike this week for better pay but their calls went largely unheeded.

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".

When he took over from Mugabe, Mnangagwa pledged to revive the moribund economy and end the country's worldwide isolation.

"Details on the exact form the rebate system will take will be announced in due course... and given these cost mitigations and incentives, the government does not expect, and will not allow, businesses to trigger a new round of price increases".

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