Fuel prices up 12 percent as public sector workers meet to consider strikes

HARARE – The government raised fuel prices by 12 percent on Tuesday, adding fresh woe to a population buffeted by price increases while salaries remain stagnant.

A litre of petrol went up from $14.97 to $16.75 (US$1.07) while a litre of diesel now retails for $17.47 compared to $15.64 last week.

The Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority, which announced the new prices, did not give reasons for the increases.

The last round of fuel price hikes on October 5 saw prices rise 27 percent and was followed by a 320 percent increase in the cost of electricity, triggering a spike in the cost of basic goods such as sugar, maize meal and milk.

The latest hike has failed to ease nationwide shortages, with most of the fuel pumps in the major cities still dry.

With prices surging, economists examining the official monthly data put inflation in September at 380 percent.

Hopes that the economy would quickly rebound under President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who took over after the late Robert Mugabe was deposed in a coup in 2017, have dimmed fast as ordinary people grapple with economic hardships.

Zimbabwe is experiencing its worst economic crisis in a decade, seen in the triple-digit inflation, 18-hour power cuts and shortages of United States dollars, medicine and fuel that have evoked the dark days of the 2008 hyperinflation under Mugabe.

Mnangagwa, who critics accuse of lacking commitment to political reforms and using his predecessor’s heavy-handed tactics to stifle dissent, has pleaded for time and patience to bring the economy back from the “dead”.

On Wednesday, the Apex Council – bringing together 14 public sector unions – is meeting to consider calling nationwide strikes after the government rejected its central demand to have salaries indexed to the United States dollar.

Finance minister said the government would “go bust” if it multiplied salaries of its 230,000-strong civil service by 15.59, the current rate of the Zimbabwe dollar to the United States dollar. – Reuters