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Verdict Is Mixed On Impact Of Two-Day General Strike In Zimbabwe

A two-day general strike called by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions concluded Wednesday with reports indicating limited impact on businesses in Harare and the country's other main cities. But there were indications that many workers in the country's depressed industrial sector responded to the union call.

Officials of the labor confederation said the stayaway was a success given what they described as widespread official intimidation of workers to compel job attendance.

Labor Minister Nicholas Goche was unavailable for comment on the strike.

ZCTU spokesman Last Tarabuku told reporter Jonga Kandemiiri of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the union estimated national worker participation at 50%.

He challenged those who concluded the strike had failed. "It depends on what you call a flop," Tarabuku said. "In a situation where people are intimidated, helicopters flying all over suburbs intimidating people to go to work, I don't think it was a flop."

"It was a success," Tarabuku declared.

Correspondent Irwin Chifera reported on how the second day of the strike, called to demand a minimum monthly wage of Z$1 million (US$40), played out in Harare.

Labor sources suspected state agents tried unsuccessfully to abduct Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe General Secretary Raymond Majongwe, who is also a member of the ZCTU supreme council. Majongwe said that he was saved by an alert bank security guard who whisked him away through a back door.

In Mutare eight workers at Karina Textiles were arrested and labor sources said police severely beat the chairman of the firm's workers committee.

In an apparent move to counter the impact of the strike, the Employers Confederation of Zimbabwe met with labor minister Goche Tuesday to press ahead with discussions on a social contract aimed at pulling the economy out of its tailspin.

Executive Director John Mufukari of the Employers Confederation told reporter Patience Rusere that employers want to keep tripartite negotiations, which normally involve labor as well as business and the government moving ahead.

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