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Zimbabwe Noise Protest Gathers Momentum; Union Threatens Action

More than 500 people took part in a five-minute lunchtime noise protest organised in Harare Wednestoday by the Save Zimbabwe Campaign, which unites churches, civic groups and opposition parties against President Robert Mugabe.

The Save Zimbabwe Campaign has called on citizens to engage in a peaceful five-minute protest every Wednesday by banging pots, hooting car horns, whistling and shouting. Witnesses said there was a heavy police presence in the capital and participation seemed to be stronger than on the two previous Wednesdays.

Protesters were led by parliamentarians and top officials of the Movement for Democratic Change faction of MDC founder Morgan Tsvangirai, while the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions called out industrial workers and the Zimbabwe National Students Union said it had called marches in Harare, Bulawayo and Masvingo.

Student union sources said two leaders of the organization were questioned for hours by police wanting to know the source of fliers distributed in the capital.

The campaign’s general council met in Harare and resolved to press ahead with what it is calling the "Sounds of Freedom" protest. The governing body decided to increase the length of time during which protesters would make noise to 25 minutes.

Foreign affairs spokeswoman Grace Kwinjeh of the Tsvangirai faction told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe the protests went as planned.

Elsewhere, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions has vowed to make good on its threat of mass protests against the government, citing news that the cost of living rose 47% in November. The ZCTU general council resolved to negotiate with Harare and confront it in the streets until the conditions improve for Zimbabwean workers.

The Consumer Council of Zimbabwe said Wednesday that the basic cost of living for a family of six rose from Z$141,706 in October to Z$208,714 in November.The group said basics such as maize meal, cooking oil and soap rose in price more than 100%.

ZCTU Secretary General Wellington Chibhebhe told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that most workers are now living under the poverty line.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...