In Summary
  • Announcement came after fuel shortages which began in October last year worsened with motorists sometimes spending nights in queues at fuel pumps stretching for kilometres.
  • Mnangagwa said foreign diplomats and tourists would get fuel at cheaper prices at certain designated points.
  • After years in international isolation, Zimbabwe's economy has been on a downturn with cash shortages, high unemployment and recently a scarcity of basic staples.

HARARE,

Zimbabweans reacted with outrage Sunday to a sharp rise in fuel prices announced by President Emmerson Mnangagwa in a move to improve supplies as the country struggles with its worst gasoline shortages in a decade.

After years of international isolation, Zimbabwe's economy has been in decline for more than a decade with cash shortages, high unemployment and a recent 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 demand and "rampant" illegal trading.

Mnangagwa, who took over from long-time 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.

He said from midnight Saturday, petrol prices would rise from $1.24 a litre to $3.31 (2.89 euros) and diesel from $1.36 a litre to $3.11.

'WORSEN SITUATION'

But many Zimbabweans criticised the move, worrying a knock-on spike in other costs would worsen an already difficult economic situation and trigger protests and strikes.

"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 car dealer in Bulawayo, the country's second largest city.

Victor Nyoni, head of a local business body, said the fuel prices would push up the cost of other goods with businesses likely to pass on the higher transport costs to consumers.

'POOR OVERBURDENED'

The president's announcement came after fuel shortages which began in October last year worsened in recent weeks with motorists sometimes spending nights in fuel pump queues that stretch for kilometres.

The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) said the government had demonstrated a lack of empathy for the already-overburdened poor.

"The government has officially declared its anti-worker, anti-poor and anti-people ideological position," it said. "Workers' salaries have been reduced to nothing and our suffering elevated to another level."

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

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