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Bent On Survival, Many Zimbabweans Ignore Opposition Stayaway Call

A general strike called by Zimbabwe's main opposition movement to pressure Harare to release the results of the country's March 29 presidential election failed to convince many Zimbabweans in the major cities to stay away from work or their own informal business activities amid crushing economic woes and widespread hunger.

Observers said most Zimbabweans are too fearful of losing their jobs, however badly paid, or loath to suspend informal business activities that put food on the table.

The downtown areas of Harare, the capital, second city Bulawayo, and lesser towns did not reflect widespread adhesion to a call by the Movement for Democratic Change formation led by Morgan Tsvangirai to stay away from jobs Tuesday and to stay away until the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission releases the presidential ballot data.

Seventeen days after the March 29 presidential election, the commission had not yet announced the results, despite a call on the weekend from leaders of the Southern African Development Community to release them "expeditiously."

Correspondent Irwin Chifera of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe described the mood in the capital and related some incidents that marked the general strike there.

In Bulawayo, about three of four establishments in the central business district opened and workers who showed up professed ignorance of the strike or expressed fear they might lose their jobs if they participated, as correspondent Netsai Mlilo reported.

Correspondent Taurai Shava in Gweru reported that the response to the opposition call was mixed in the Midlands Province capital, with some impact on industries.

Information Minister Sikhanyiso Ndlovu told reporter Wilma Consul in an interview that the opposition stayaway was a failure.

From Shurugwi, Midlands, Tsvangirai MDC representative Amon Mhaka said a lack of communication through party structures may have contributed to a poor response.

Yousoff, a resident of the St Mary's district of the Harare satellite town of Chitungwiza said he believes the opposition-called stayaway will eventually take hold.

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