Results appeared to be mixed for the strike organizers on the first day of a 48-hour stayaway or general strike called to protest the government’s heavy-handed campaign that has shut down most of the informal sector and left millions homeless. Studio seven reporters and other observers said traffic and commercial activity was only slightly diminished in Harare, Bulawayo and Mutare.
Most businesses appeared to have opened their doors under pressure from authorities, and public schools conducted classes as normal. Parliament reopened and President Mugabe gave a speech in which he defended the demolition of homes and vendor stands as necessary to curb corruption and advance his economic program.
Mr. Mugabe said a chaotic state of affairs “could not be countenanced” any longer, and announced that he’ll create an anti-corruption commission. The president did not mention the stayaway.
Even supporters of the action complained of poor coordination by its organizers. Some MDC parliamentarians told Studio 7 they could have mobilized more constituents if they’d had more information well ahead of the action. Opposition member of parliament for Masvingo Central Tongai Mathuthu says it was business as usual in his city today. But he added this does not mean most people support government actions. He says he was informed of the stayaway and parliament boycott only yesterday.
Other said simple economics prevented people from staying home – neither employers nor their staffs feel they can afford to sacrifice a day’s revenue. Most employers contacted by Studio 7 said attendance was not a problem. But there were some shutdowns in industry.
One economist says economic conditions are so dismal at present that employers and employees have a strong mutual interest in survival. Others say the formal commercial sector has not been much affected by the wholesale destruction of the informal trading sector in recent weeks.
But one key figure in the Broad Alliance behind the stay-away describes the action as “a reasonable success.” National Constitutional Assembly Chairman Lovemore Madhuku reports strong participation in Harare and Bulawayo – but acknowledges only about 20 percent of workers stayed home in Masvingo, Gweru and Mutare.
He blamed the low turnout to fear of authorities, predicting better results Friday as stayaway organizers build suppport.