Zimbabwe labour group threatens protests over ban on foreign currencies

An illegal money changer counts dollar notes in Harare, Zimbabwe, January 10, 2019. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo/File Photo

HARARE (Reuters) – Zimbabwe’s largest labour body on Tuesday threatened protests over the government’s decision to ban the use of foreign currencies and make the interim currency the sole legal tender.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government said the move on Monday to abandon a multi-currency system was an important step towards removing economic imbalances.

But many Zimbabweans are distrustful after a long succession of failed economic interventions.

“If the government does not reverse this ruinous policy immediately and announce U.S. dollar salary payments, we will immediately mobilise workers for mass action,” Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) president Peter Mutasa told a news conference.

“The ZCTU has not moved from its position that the short-term solution is to dollarise and, as such, we are going into the tripartite negotiating forum (with government and business) to demand U.S. dollar salary payments,” Mutasa added.

In January, the ZCTU led nationwide protests against a 150% fuel price increase, triggering a violent crackdown by the army and police, which left at least 12 people dead, according to rights groups.

Mnangagwa replaced longtime leader Robert Mugabe after an army coup in November 2017, but a hoped-for economic turnaround has not materialised.

In February, Mnangagwa’s government introduced the RTGS dollar as a transitional unit before relaunching the Zimbabwean dollar.

Reporting by Nelson Banya; Writing by Alexander Winning; Editing by Angus MacSwan and Alison Williams

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