Zimbabwe court grants bail to trade unionists: lawyer

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Trade union leaders and scores of activists detained in Zimbabwe ahead of planned marches over the country's worsening economic crisis, were released on bail Saturday, lawyers said.

Cossam Ncube of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights told AFP that Peter Mutasa, president of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) - the country's largest - and secretary general Moyo were among those released by a Harare magistrate's court.

"The seven ZCTU leaders were granted $50 bail each and ordered by the court to reside at their official addresses," Ncube said.

"At least 20 others were released yesterday (Friday) in Mutare after they were granted bail." Mutare is in east of the country, near the border with Mozambique.

The activists were arrested in a nationwide police crackdown Thursday after Mutasa called for protests, despite a police ban on public gatherings in the capital due to a recent cholera outbreak.

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The ZCTU planned a national strike to protest against sharp price hikes, a new tax on electronic transactions and daily shortages ranging from fuel to bread.

On Saturday, police patrolled the streets of the capital Harare armed with truncheons, guns and teargas canisters, as water cannon trucks parked on some streets.

Zimbabwe's moribund economy has hit new lows in recent days with shops struggling to stock shelves, medicine running out and long queues forming outside petrol stations.

The local "bond note" currency, which in theory has the same value as the US dollar, has been in free-fall in recent weeks. That has raised fears of a return to the hyper-inflation that wrecked national finances in 2009.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who took power last year after Robert Mugabe was ousted by the military, has vowed to ensure essential daily goods are available.

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