Riots in Zimbabwe as food prices soar

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The Independent Online

Rioters in townships near Harare blocked roadways, threw stones at police and set fire to at least three buses yesterday in protest against Zimbabwe's soaring food prices.

Rioters in townships near Harare blocked roadways, threw stones at police and set fire to at least three buses yesterday in protest against Zimbabwe's soaring food prices.

Riot police armed with batons, shields and automatic rifles responded by firing tear gas at the crowds, who used bricks and logs to close streets and encourage others to stay away from work.

Police sealed Mabvuku and Tafara townships, 19 miles east of Harare, and set up patrols in the centre of Harare after rumours that angry youths were heading there for a demonstration against President Robert Mugabe's government. The police chased protesters through Mabvuku, where Zimbabwe's worst food riots erupted in January 1998 and left seven people dead. President Mugabe had to deploy armoured troops in what many saw then as the biggest challenge to his rule.

Bread and sugar prices rose by an average of 30 per cent last week in Zimbabwe, which is already facing economic crisis and political tension.

Witnesses said some roads had been scrawled with messages urging residents to stay at home to show anger over the management of the economy by Mr Mugabe, Zimbabwe's ruler since the former Rhodesia gained independence from Britain 20 years ago.

"We are tired of these endless price increases. We are tired of a government that lies to us and cannot do its work," said Mavuto Phiri, a protester in Mabvuku.

Witnesses said two bread delivery trucks were looted in Mufakose, another township west of Harare, while residents in Budiriro said an angry crowd had at one point gathered at the township's main shopping centre before dispersing.

Zimbabwe has been tense since February when Mr Mugabe's government lost a referendum on a draft constitution that critics said was designed to entrench his rule. The ruling Zanu-PF party narrowly won general parliamentary elections in June after a violent campaign that left at least 31 people dead. (Reuters)

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