Mozambique Strike Enters Second Day; Cabinet Meets

Residents of Mozambique’s capital, Maputo, continued a strike over higher food and utility prices for a second day as police patrolled the city’s streets.

At least seven people have died in clashes between protesters and police that prompted President Armando Emilio Guebuza yesterday to call for calm. Another 280 people were injured in the fighting, Cabinet spokesman Alberto Nkutumula told reporters today after an emergency Cabinet meeting.

“While striking is a constitutional right, what is not a right is to use violence,” he said. “We have police to put things to order.”

Protests began after the government announced plans to raise water and electricity rates by 30 percent starting yesterday and the price of bread by 25 percent on Sept. 6. Fuel and cement prices have also risen. Unidentified people had sent text messages urging Mozambicans to strike against the price increases.

The strike over price increases is the second since Guebuza, a 66-year-old businessman who is serving his second term, came to power in 2004. Riots in 2008 against food and fuel price increases left at least three people dead.

The government should have announced measures to end the strike, Antonio Muchanga, an official with the opposition Renamo party, said in a telephone interview.

‘Blind And Deaf’

“Government should have announced the suspension of price increases rather than appealing for calm,” he said. “This reveals that we have a government which is blind and deaf.”

The weaker currency and the removal of a subsidy on fuel, introduced after the 2008 protests, resulted in the higher prices, Joseph Hanlon, visiting fellow at the Milton Keynes, England-based Open University, said in an e-mailed statement.

“The devaluation of the metical has played an important role, because much food and other goods are imported from South Africa,” he said.

The metical was at 36.75 to the dollar at 5:03 p.m. in Maputo and has weakened 18 percent this year.

Television channels showed images of burning fuel stations, while businesses and vehicles were vandalized during the protest, broadcaster Televisao de Mocambique said, citing police spokesman Pedro Cossa.

Neighbor South Africa closed its embassy in Maputo due to protests near the building and warned people about traveling on the main road from its border to Maputo, the department of international relations said in a statement on its website.

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