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  • People run at a protest as barricades burn during rainfall in Harare, Zimbabwe Jan. 14, 2019.

    People run at a protest as barricades burn during rainfall in Harare, Zimbabwe Jan. 14, 2019. | Photo: Reuters

Published 14 January 2019

People took to streets in Zimbabwe after President Mnangagwa announced a 150 percent fuel price hike in a country where unemployment is 80 percent. 

Protesters barricaded roads and burned tires in a suburb of Zimbabwe's capital Harare Monday, two days after President Emmerson Mnangagwa announced a massive fuel price hike in an effort to stem a deepening economic crisis.

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Cash shortages have plunged Zimbabwe's economy into disarray, threatening widespread social unrest and undermining Mnangagwa's efforts to win back foreign investors sidelined under his predecessor Robert Mugabe.

"What kind of a man does this? Can Mnangagwa even be called a president? He's making life hard for us and these police are trying to stop us as if they don't know our pain," said Glen Ncube, a protestor.

Police fired teargas to disperse youths protesting outside the high court in Zimbabwe's second city of Bulawayo, according to video footage from the Centre for Innovation and Technology, a local news service. Riot police in trucks patrolled downtown Harare while some shops remained closed.

"The fuel prices must come down, we are not going anywhere until they bring it down. This government is trying to play with us. They can bring their tear gas and police but we're here to fight for this country; I'm not going anywhere," Morrisson Nxulmalo, an unemployed 33-year-old Zimbabwean told Al Jazeera.

Mnangagwa's announcement of a 150 percent increase in fuel prices was greeted with shock in Zimbabwe where unemployment is over 80 percent. The price was increased from US$1.34 for a liter of petrol to US$3.31 with diesel surging to US$3.11 per liter. The government sets fuel prices via the Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Agency.

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Residents of Epworth, 36 km (22 miles) south of the capital, protested after the main labor federation called for a three-day strike starting Monday in response to the price increase.

"The main roads to town have been barricaded with rocks and there is no public transport carrying people," Phibeon Machona, a 27-year-old Epworth resident told Reuters.

The recent protests came just after doctors ended a 40-day strike in the country without comeing to any terms.

The Zimbabwean government issued a statement in response to the protests labeling them Western-sponsored acts.

"This brazenly unconstitutional plan which has sought financial support from some regime-change organisations based in America and Germany, among other countries, represents a serious threat to our consolidating democracy, to the rule of law in our country, and to the authority of government and the state," the statement said.

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