AROUND HALF a million workers in Zambia struck last week against the International Monetary Fund's cuts and the government which implements them. Thousands of Zambians marched on parliament during a strike that closed offices, shops and schools in the capital, Lusaka.
Union leaders called the strike to denounce tax rises and a wage freeze for government employees imposed in the new national budget. The budget is the latest attempt by the government of President Levy Mwanawasa to satisfy the IMF's demands.
Addressing the workers at the parliament grounds, Zambia Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) president Leonard Hikaumba warned that they would stage an indefinite stoppage if parliament approved this year's budget in its current form.
Free Trade Unions of Zambia (FFTUZ) president Joyce Nondo said the workers will lead a revolution 'like the one in Georgia in Eastern Europe' to remove the government, if need be.
ZCTU and FFTUZ have given the government until April to revise the 2004 budget. For ten years the IMF and the World Bank have wrecked the lives of the vast majority of Zambia's ten million people. Healthcare fees, introduced in 1994, saw hospitals become too expensive for most. One in five children die before they are five and 80 percent of people live on less than a dollar a day.
Yet the international bankers demand still more sacrifice-and the Zambian government gives in to them.