Zimbabwe riot police charge protesters

Zimbabwe riot police wielding batons charged protesting union members, doctors and nurses to disperse demonstrations on Wednesday as the country sank further into crisis.

Zimbabwean trade unions have called a day of protest over a deepening banking and cash shortage crisis while at least a hundred doctors and nurses protested outside the Health Ministry in the capital Harare.

A cholera outbreak has killed nearly 500 people and infected almost 12 000 Zimbabweans, forcing hundreds to cross the border with South Africa to seek treatment.

The spread of cholera, normally a preventable and treatable disease, highlights the collapse in the once relatively prosperous Southern African nation, where President Robert Mugabe and the opposition are squabbling over how to implement a power-sharing agreement.

Riot police armed with shields and batons broke up a group of about 20 demonstrators marching towards the central bank in Harare’s central business district.

Across town, police also dispersed a group of about 100 health workers, including doctors and nurses, who had converged at the head offices of the Health Ministry.

Police were not immediately available for comment.

Public hospitals have largely shut down due to drug and equipment shortages as well as frequent strikes by doctors and nurses pressing for better pay.

The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) said on Wednesday it would press ahead with protests despite a heavy police presence. The ZCTU said at least one union leader had been arrested by secret police from the Central Intelligence Organisation.

There was no sign of any immediate impact of new measures announced by the central bank to increase cash withdrawal limits and introduce higher value notes. There were still long lines outside banks as shoppers jostled to get cash.

New banknotes
The Herald newspaper said the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe had unveiled new Z$10-million, Z$50-million and Z$100-million notes that would go into circulation on Thursday.

The previously highest denomination was Z$1-million.

”The release of the new notes follows the recent review of cash withdrawal limits to Z$100-million and Z$50-million for individuals and company account holders per week respectively,” the Herald said. – Reuters

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