Unions' strike "successful"

Striking Zambian unions described their nationwide stayaway on Wednesday against tax hikes and wage freezes as "successful".

Sylvester Tembo, secretary-general of the Zambia Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), told IRIN that 90 percent of workers in the public sector had heeded the strike call.

Reports said several thousand members of ZCTU and the Federation of Free Trade Unions in Zambia (FFTUZ) marched peacefully to parliament in the capital, Lusaka.

On Tuesday the police had finally granted a permit to ZCTU and FFTUZ to march to parliament, where they handed over a petition against the income tax hike and wage freeze announced in the budget earlier this month.

Under the new budget, the government is to raise income taxes by up to 40 percent for the country's highest-paid workers.

Meanwhile, the Daily Mail newspaper reported on Wednesday that as a cost-saving measure the Zambian government had withdrawn all duty vehicles assigned to officials below the rank of permanent secretary.