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Zimbabwe General Strike Mostly Fizzles; Teachers Pursue Labor Action

The first day of a two-day general strike called by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions elicited a mixed response Wednesday from workers in Harare, the capital, and Bulawayo, the second city, and most businesses appeared to be operating as usual.

In the Midlands capital of Gweru, workers in the industrial district trooped to their jobs as usual on Wednesday morning. Some told a VOA reporter that they saw no point in staying home from work as the action was unlikely to bring about change.

Correspondent Irwin Chifera gave reporter Ndimyake Mwakalyelye of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe a rundown on the strike's limited effects in Harare.

VOA was unable to obtain comment from senior ZCTU officials who were said to have gone underground to avoid arrest by authorities. Police earlier in the week had rounded up ZCTU officials in Harare, Bulawayo and other cities.

Political analysts blamed state-sponsored intimidation and poor publicity for what they termed the failure of the first day of the "stay-away" action. Analyst Takura Zhangazha told reporter Patience Rusere of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the second day of the general strike was likely to prove a failure too for the same reasons.

Elsewhere, the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe said its members would stay on strike until the government responds to their demands. The PTUZ is asking for a raise in basic wages to $15 million (US$45) a month from $2.9 million at present.

Most schools reported few teachers showing up, though members of the rival Zimbabwe Teachers’ Association were on the job - their association said it was still pursuing negotiations with the government. Teachers Association President Tendai Chikowore said she is optimistic talks with the government will yield results.

Progressive Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe General Secretary Raymond Majongwe told reporter Jonga Kandemiiri of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that representatives of the Education Ministry visited schools Wednesday to assess the strike's impact.

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