HARARE, Zimbabwe, July 6 (UPI) — Teachers, doctors and nurses were among the thousands of government workers in Zimbabwe who went on strike Tuesday in protest over unpaid wages.
The African country has been suffering from a chronic cash shortage, brought about in part by the effects of a severe drought that has created a food shortage and damaged agriculture companies.
Tensions have been rising in recent days in the capital, Harare, despite government promises that workers will be paid by the middle of July.
On Monday, 94 arrests were made as police used tear gas and water cannons to break up protests. The unrest had begun when minibus taxi drivers erected barricades, claiming that police officers had been setting up roadblocks and demanding bribes.
Amnesty International‘s Muleya Mwananyanda criticized the authorities after footage showed protesters being beaten with sticks.
“The deplorable use of force by the police against protesters amounts to human rights violations,” she said. “Police must stop using force to suppress dissenting voices.”
Last week hundreds of people blocked the Beitbridge border post, a gateway to South Africa, to protest a government ban on food imports. At least 71 people were arrested.
“The civil servants have the right to protest but there are procedures that have to be followed,” Supa Mandiwanzira, the acting public service minister, said Wednesday.
“Those processes haven’t been exhausted. If they take part in an unsanctioned process there will be consequences, and they must disregard this call for a stayaway.”
The strike is the latest in a series of protests to hit the southern African country, which has been ruled by Mugabe since 1980, when white minority rule came to an end following a 15-year war.
He has vowed to stand again as president in elections due in 2018, and named no successor.
“We have heeded the call” by our governing council, Zimbabwe Teachers’ Union president Richard Gundani said.
“Teachers and the rest of the civil servants are declaring their incapacity to go to work. Government departments were operating without some of their staff who stayed at home.”