World News

TIMELINE: Chronology of Zimbabwe's economic crisis

HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabweans facing economic hardships and a crackdown on dissent turned up for work on Wednesday despite calls by unions for nationwide strikes to protest a government wage freeze.

The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) had urged mass action as galloping inflation of about 6,600 percent and severe food and fuel shortages ravage the country.

Following are major events since the economic problems began:

1998 - An economic crisis marked by high interest rates and inflation provokes riots and mass support for the Zimbabwean Congress of Trade Unions headed by Morgan Tsvangirai. The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) is formed and Tsvangirai is appointed leader the next year.

1999 - World Bank and IMF suspend aid to Zimbabwe over differences with the government on policies.

2000 - Mugabe’s government loses referendum on constitutional reforms, and in the face of growing opposition to his rule, his supporters invade and seize white-owned commercial farms, saying the land was illegally taken by white settlers.

-- Mugabe’s ruling ZANU-PF party wins parliamentary polls amid charges of fraud and vote rigging by the opposition.

2001 - Zimbabwe suffers food shortages that government critics blame on farm seizures, but Mugabe blames on drought.

-- Several Western governments quietly withdraw economic aid over rights abuses by the government and Mugabe’s land policy.

2002 - Mugabe wins new six-year term in elections. Observers condemn poll as flawed and unfair.

-- Commonwealth suspends Zimbabwe, while EU imposes travel sanctions and freezes assets of Mugabe’s associates.

-- Collapse of commercial agriculture and poor weather contribute to serious food shortages, leaving about half of Zimbabwe’s population in need of emergency food aid.

-- U.N. agencies, Britain and the U.S. help fund food aid.

2003 - Hundreds of companies are forced to shut down due to economic hardships and rising inflation.

2004 - The EU renews sanctions against Mugabe and his inner circle.

2005 - Mugabe’s party wins parliamentary election, which the opposition say was rigged.

-- The IMF begins process to expel Zimbabwe from the fund over dues unpaid since 2001.

-- A U.N. report in July says Zimbabwe should halt its indiscriminate bulldozing of shanty buildings, calling the operation a disastrous venture that had cost 700,000 people their homes or jobs and affected 2.4 million others.

2006 - Zimbabwe’s annual inflation rises above 1,000 percent in April. Redenominated notes are issued in August. Inflation rises monthly.

2007 - Ruling ZANU-PF adopts a motion to hold elections in 2008 in March and endorse Mugabe as its presidential candidate.

-- Government institutes price freeze in June, followed two months later by wage freeze.

-- There is a run on shops as goods disappear from shelves. Zimbabwe imports 60,000 tonnes of wheat to ease bread shortages after millers run out of the grain. The government said it did not meet its annual consumption requirements of between 400,000 and 450,000 tonnes of wheat.

-- Zimbabwe announces inflation slowed to an annualized 6,592.8 percent in August from 7,634.8 percent in July. The government credits price freeze for the drop.

-- Labour leaders call for a two-day strike Sept 26-27 to protest the wage freeze.