Zimbabwe’s police attacked and arrested trade union leaders on Thursday as thousands of anti-austerity demonstrators took to the streets across the country.
They surrounded the offices of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions in the capital Harare, beating its president Peter Mutasa and secretary-general Japhet Moyo.
Both men were arrested, along with 20 protesters in Mutare and 13 in Masvingo, as authorities clamped down on anti-government demonstrations.
Zimbabwe’s economy is in crisis, with trade unions blaming government austerity measures and fiscal policies for a sharp drop in the value of wages that is leaving workers struggling to afford basic necessities.
The demonstrations were called after the government announced plans to tax mobile money transactions at 2 per cent per dollar and said that bank deposits made in US dollars would now be converted to local currency.
Food prices have rocketed after people started panic-buying, stripping supermarket shelves as they fear the return of hyperinflation.
The last such crisis was in 2008, when the inflation rate hit 79,000,000,000 per cent a month and workers could not even buy a loaf of bread due to the soaring prices.
IndustriaALL Zimbabwe youth committee secretary Christian Ranji warned that workers have no choice but to fight austerity.
“We can’t be taxed to fund wasteful government spending. Companies are closing, and workers losing jobs. The announcement caused instability as grocery shops increased prices and citizens started buying in bulk to get value for their money,” he said.
IndustriALL general secretary Valter Sanches branded the arrest of Mr Mutasa and Mr Moyo “unacceptable” and demanded their immediate release.
“We call upon the government of Zimbabwe to respect the rights of workers to protest against the austerity measures and condemn the acts of violence and intimidation,” he said.