Zimbabweans are protesting President Mnangagwa's measures to curb an increasingly serious economic crisis.
Riot police were deployed Wednesday in Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe, to patrol, register, and arrest citizens on the third day of protests against an increase in fuel prices, a measure reportedly implemented by President Emmerson Mnangagwa's Administration to end “rampant illegal” fuel trading.
The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) called for the three-day national strike, starting on Jan 14. Protesters blocked roads and burned tires two days after President Mnangagwa announced measures to curb an increasingly serious economic crisis.
More than 600 civilians have been detained, charged with public violence and beaten, pointing to a heavy crackdown by the state.
Chronic shortages of U.S. dollars, which was adopted as the country's official currency in 2009, has plunged Zimbabwe's economy into disarray, threatening widespread panic social unrest.
The announcement of a 150% increase in fuel prices was met with opposition in the country where unemployment currently exceeds 80%.
“Years of political and economic mismanagement has brought Zimbabwe’s economy to its knees,” Muleya Mwananyanda, Amnesty’s Deputy Director for Southern Africa, said, adding that “millions of Zimbabweans are terrified about the knock-on effects that fuel increases will have on their daily lives, including for food and healthcare.”
#Zimbabwe is in protests that will last 3 days. Rising oil prices are the reason for the demonstrations. #ZimbabweShutDown is the call for no one to get to work. Inevitably there were scenarios of violence and confrontation between demonstrators and the police. pic.twitter.com/JRED2eSHmi— Cídia Chissungo (@Cidiachissungo) January 14, 2019
Security forces arrested Pastor Evan Mawarire, an opposition activist who became famous for promoting the "This Flag Citizens Movement", an initiative founded in 2016 "to speak out, ask questions and act against corruption, injustice and poverty."
Mawarire's arrest happens in a political context in which, according to the Ministry for National Security, hundreds of people have been detained. Human rights organizations denounce the actions of the security personnel, stating that repression has already left at least six dead.
Public transportation and basic services remained practically closed Wednesday.
A 27-year-old citizen, Phibeon Machona, commented that "the main roads to the city have been blocked... and there is no public transport available."
These young men were abducted from their homes at midnight last night by masked men in plain clothes carrying AK47s. They were dragged out, beaten in the streets with baton sticks and rifle butts, bundled into the back of trucks, and left at Harare Central. #shutdownZimbabwe pic.twitter.com/0RBV4RWnnC— Doug Coltart ✊������ (@DougColtart) January 16, 2019
Internet services were initially disrupted, then partially restored, but without social media such as WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter which remain blocked on the order of the government.
Joana Mamombe, an opposition lawmaker, said she was in hiding after soldiers sought her out at her parents’ home Tuesday and beat up her father, leaving him hospitalized. “I am very scared for my life. This is a crackdown on those of us who oppose this government. They want to silence opposition voices,” she said.
In Harare, police fired tear gas to disperse a crowd outside a shop as soldiers monitored people queued to buy food. Meanwhile, security forces were served ahead of civilian motorists at the only fuel station doing business.
President Mnangagwa is on a trip abroad, which includes a visit to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.