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Strike At Zimbabwe Power Authority Coincides With Widespread Outages

Striking workers at the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority say their work stoppage had nothing to do with a massive power outage across the country Wednesday.

Thousands of households in Harare and Bulawayo lost power in the latest interruption over the past several days. Some residents of Harare's Mabvuku district said they have been coping with the loss of electrical power throughout the week.

ZESA spokesman James Maridadi said the blackouts were caused by the vandalism of transformers, and not the industrial action that began on Wednesday.

Officials of the Zimbabwe Electricity and Energy Workers Union said they had failed to reach agreement with management. Union officials said ZESA employees are currently earning salaries as low as Z$23,000 a month, less than US$100 even at the official exchange rate, and seek increases in pay to as much as Z$300,000 monthly.

The official exchange rate has been fixed at Z$250 to the U.S. dollar since July, but hyperinflation has driven it to Z$2,500 to Z$3,000 per greenback, reducing the purchasing power of workers on fixed wages. A loaf of bread costs Z$850.

Zimbabwe Electricity and Energy Workers Union Secretary General Ian Munjoma told reporter Carole Gombakomba of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the walkout by workers was unrelated to the sudden surge of blackouts across the country.

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