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Harare Moves to Defuse Popular Discontent at Boiling Point

Concerned about the possibility discontent among Zimbabweans could lead to popular revolt, the government has backed off proposed steep hikes in the cost of electricity to households and a freeze on salaries to teachers and other public employees.

On a visit to Chegutu, in Mashonaland West province, President Robert Mugabe said teacher salaries would be reviewed. Elsewhere, police have been told to crack down on unauthorized price increases by shop-owners and public transport operators.

Officials have described such unauthorized price rises as economic “sabotage.”

A senior government source said a crisis committee including the chiefs of the central bank, army, police and Central Intelligence Organization has urged the president to curb rising prices which risk sparking mass action by a struggling population. Other reports said Zimbabwe’s state security apparatus went on high alert this week.

Elsewhere, Britain’s minister for Africa, in South Africa this past week, warned that the further deterioration of conditions in Zimbabwe could lead to an outbreak of conflict.

Deputy Information Minister Bright Matonga declined to comment on developments.

For perspective on the government’s latest measures, reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA’s Studio 7 for Zimbabwe turned to independent South African analyst Obri Matshiqi.

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