Zimbabwe’s public sector unions broke up Wednesday on whether a nationwide strike should be launched after the wage negotiations with the government failed, leaving the country on the verge of a possible new unrest.
Zimbabwe was shocked by violent protests for three days in mid-January, which led to a brutal suppression of security.
The harsh response of the security forces raised concerns that under President Emmerson Mnangagwa, the country was sliding back to the type of authoritarianism that was observed during the 37-year reign of Robert Mugabe.
A spokesman for Mnangagwa said that troops would remain in the streets, and the state would block the Internet again if violence broke out.
Teachers and other government officials demand higher wages and dollar payments to help them prevent inflation and the economic crisis, which has led to a reduction in the stock of money, fuel, and medicine in public hospitals.
Human rights organizations say that at least 12 people were killed this month after a three-day strike caused by rising fuel prices, which led to street protests and harassment by the security services. The government says three people died.
According to trade union representatives, at a meeting with trade unions, the government offered to allocate land for building houses and food baskets for workers. On Monday, public sector unions issued an ultimatum to the government for 48 hours to make a new salary proposal or face a strike.
The Apex Council, which represents 17 public sector unions, was then unable to agree on whether to go on strike during a short meeting that failed when officials accused each other of working for the opposition or the government.
“The meeting of the Apex Council ended prematurely, and people left. There is no consensus. How can we go on strike when our colleagues come and say that some unions have been paid? ”Said Raymond Mahjongwe, general secretary of the Union of Progressive Teachers of Zimbabwe.
He said that his union was among those who were accused by colleagues of the fact that the opposition and donors pay for striking and causing violence, charges that he denies.
The largest union of teachers called for a strike on February 5.
& # 39; Bread and butter & # 39;
Mnangagwa, who came to power in November 2017 after the long-time ruler of Mugabe was forced to resign, promised to revive the economy and break with Mugabe’s policies. But frustration over the economic crisis is accumulating, and analysts say the pace of economic and political reform is too slow for impatient citizens.
Mnangagwa on Wednesday selected an advisory board of 24 members to advise him on economic reforms, a government source said.
The 76-year-old leader promised to investigate repressions against demonstrators and take measures to overcome the economic crisis, but the opposition does not trust him.
A spokesman said it would take time to rebuild an economy that had suffered for decades.
“There are key questions about bread and butter that the government cannot avoid, everything is difficult,” said George Charamba at the state radio station Harare.
"But it would be sad to think that the only way to solve this problem is to cause additional damage to this already destroyed economy as a result of chaos, looting and chaos."
Charamba said police and soldiers would remain on the streets, and that the government would shut down the Internet again if violence began. Earlier, he said that the suppression was an anticipation of how the government would react to future protests.