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ZCTU calls for mass action against the central bank
Alex Bell, SW Radio Africa
November 27, 2008

Zimbabwe's labor leaders have called for mass public action to protest against the central bank's restrictive cap on cash withdrawal limits - amid a worsening food, health and cash crisis.

Zimbabwe has the world's highest official inflation of 231 million percent, but experts say the rate has reached far beyond the quintillion mark. The daily withdrawal limit of Z$500,000 was recently increased from a mere Z$50, 000 but still does not buy even half a loaf of bread. A 2 kilogram pack of sugar bought in local currency means Zimbabweans must spend four days in line at a bank or automated teller machine to get enough money. The withdrawal limit coupled with the general refusal to accept cheques or cards, means Zimbabweans cannot physically purchase even the most basic necessities.

Most concerning however is that amid a national cholera crisis that has claimed thousands of lives, Zimbabweans cannot withdraw enough money to pay for critically needed medication or even the transport to get the sick to hospitals and clinics. The situation has led to the call by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) for Zimbabweans to try and withdraw more than the Z$500,000 limit next Wednesday.

"Hundreds, if not thousands, of us have died not because of anything other than the imposed cash withdrawal limits," said the head of the ZCTU Lovemore Matombo in an interview on Thursday.

Earlier this week, Mugabe reappointed central bank governor Gideon Gono for another five-year term at the Reserve Bank - a move that has sparked outcry across the country.

Meanwhile trade unions from across Southern Africa will meet in Gaborone, Botswana on Friday to discuss 'regional matters and joint actions' in a meeting where Zimbabwe and Swaziland are said to be high on the agenda.

"We note that in Zimbabwe the cholera crisis threatens the whole region and this is a result of the political and economic crisis in that country and postponing the problem or avoiding it has not helped anyone, but worsened the suffering of the people," a statement by South Africa's trade union federation COSATU said on Thursday. "We also note that the inability of the political crisis in that country to be resolved has exposed SADC's challenges and the need for more political will by the leaders of Zimbabwe to do all within their power for their people."

COSATU has been a driving force behind various protests against the undemocratic regimes in both Zimbabwe and Swaziland. The South African union federation has organized demonstrations and blocked the borders to both neighboring countries, and has also pressured South Africa's ruling ANC government to take action.

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