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FILE: Motorists wait to fill up their tanks at a fuel station in Harare, Tuesday, Oct, 9, 2018. (AP)

HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwe’s energy regulator has raised petrol and diesel prices by up to 16%, the fourth increase this year, after the finance minister said fuel was considerably cheaper than in neighbouring countries.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa announced the biggest fuel price hike in January, a 150% increase, which sparked deadly protests by financially struggling Zimbabweans that left more than a dozen people dead after an army clampdown.

The Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority said late on Friday that effective Saturday, petrol would cost 6.10 Zimbabwe dollars ($0.70) a litre, up from 5.26, while the price of diesel had been increased 13% to 5.84 Zimbabwe dollars.

Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube was quoted in a daily newspaper on Thursday as saying he would be happy if the price of fuel was equivalent to $1 per litre.

While Ncube wants fuel prices to reflect import costs, many Zimbabweans can barely afford to pay them when the unemployment exceeds 80% and the entry-level wage for a government employee is about $49 a month - enough to buy a car tyre.

But with no sign of an end to rolling power cuts in the southern African country, demand for fuel has risen as businesses resort to more expensive diesel-powered generators.

Analysts say this is increasing the price of doing business, with companies likely to pass the cost to consumers, who are already grappling with inflation of nearly 100%.

There were long queues at service stations selling fuel early on Saturday.

Hopes that living standards would soon improve under Mnangagwa, who came to power after Robert Mugabe was removed in a coup in 2017, have not been realised. Instead, Zimbabweans are frustrated by daily power outages lasting up to 17 hours and severe shortages of U.S. dollars, fuel, bread, and medicines. (Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe Editing by Mark Heinrich)

Zimbabwe's Gems fall to Australia in Vitality World Cup. (Courtesy Photo: Farai Gore)

Zimbabwe’s Gems gave it their best shot on Saturday but could not stand the heat against 10-time World Cup champions, Australia, and lost 73- 37 in their second game of the 2019 Vitality World Cup in Liverpool, England.

The difference in class is evident from the final score-line as the Gems were no match for the taller and stronger Aussies, who are the most dominant force in world netball and have the honour of being the holders of the World Cup.

The Australians have won 10 of the 14 World Cup tournaments since this global netball festival was introduced way back in 1963, and are also favourites to retain their title in Liverpool.

However, the Zimbabweans will take comfort in the fact that they are still very much in the run for a place in the second round of the festival after Sri Lanka fell in their second game of the tournament and this time 67-50 to Northern Ireland.

The Gems will need to beat Northern Ireland in the final game Sunday to secure their place in the last 12 of the tournament. Having seen Northern Ireland struggle against Sri Lanka there is optimism that Zimbabwe will win this final game.

Should that not happen and Australia win against Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe will still secure their ticket as Sri Lanka would finish without a single point.

Farai Gore, co-ordinator of the Gems’ activities in Liverpool, says there are high hopes that Zimbabwe will progress to the next round.

“We think that we will make it to the next round taking into account that we beat Sri Lanka and we are capable of beating Northern Ireland. I urge all people in Liverpool to come and support our team.”

The Gems are participating for the first time in the Vitality World Cup.

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