Zimbabwe food price riots spread

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The Independent Online

Riots over soaring food and fuel prices entered their third day in Zimbabwe yesterday and spread to six major townships around the capital, Harare.

Riots over soaring food and fuel prices entered their third day in Zimbabwe yesterday and spread to six major townships around the capital, Harare.

As the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) continued to insist on the spontaneous nature of the street fighting - which has led to 60 arrests since Monday - divisions within President Robert Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF seemed increasingly apparent.

Breaking with the hermetical tradition of the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (Zanu-PF), one MP, Charles Ndhlovu, said he would move a motion in parliament demanding urgent steps to stabilise the crumbling economy.

In the last few weeks, there have been unprecedented calls from within the party for the 76-year-old President Mugabe to confirm his retirement at the end of his term in 2002.

The MDC, which leapt from relative obscurity to win 57 out of 120 seats in June's parliamentary election, denied any role in the protests, which seem focused on rises in the prices of bread, sugar and fuel.

"We have the structures to organise the protests but we are definitely not doing so," said Bulawayo MP David Colthart. "We know Mugabe would love to declare a state of emergency and lock us all up."

The MDC leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, was questioned by police last week after he called on President Mugabe to quit, and warned that he would be forced out if he did not go of his own accord.

Three other MDC MPs last week spent a night in jail after they were accused of "incitement to violence". No charges were brought.

Prices of many goods have increased by 30 per cent since the beginning of October and fuel costs have doubled since the elections in June. Economists put inflation at around 62 per cent and say less than half the workforce is employed.

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