News ID: 237385
Published: 0251 GMT January 15, 2019

Soldiers patrol Zimbabwe streets after deadly protests

Soldiers patrol Zimbabwe streets after deadly protests
PHILIMON BULAWAYO/REUTERS
Soldiers disperse protesters in Harare, Zimbabwe, on January 15, 2019.

Soldiers patrolled Zimbabwe city streets on Tuesday and confrontations with angry civilians threatened to boil over, as the government offered public workers more money a day after protests over a disintegrating economy turned deadly.

Monday’s unrest, in which several people died, followed sharp hikes in fuel prices decreed by President Emmerson Mnangagwa, Reuters reported.

Zimbabweans accuse him of failing to live up to pre-election promises to kick-start growth, having seen their purchasing power eroded by rampant inflation.

As security forces faced accusations of heavy-handedness and more protests threatened to break out, Labor Minister Sekai Nzenza said public workers would get a monthly supplement of between five and 23 percent of their salaries from January to March while wage negotiations with unions continued.

Mnangagwa, absent on an official visit in Moscow, said Zimbabwe was interested in receiving Russian loans and might need Russia’s help in modernizing its army, RIA news agency reported.

The president has also promised a clean break from the oppressive regime of long-term leader Robert Mugabe, who he forced out in a de facto coup in November 2017.

In Harare and Zimbabwe’s second city Bulawayo, banks, schools, businesses and the stock market remained shut on Tuesday as many residents stayed at home.

Security forces deployed to stave off further demonstrations, witnesses said, and people in the capital said they could no longer access the Internet.

A human rights lawyers’ group said it had received reports of soldiers and police breaking into homes in townships overnight and assaulting suspected demonstrators.

Mnangagwa – a one-time protégé of Mugabe who served the post-independence leader as defense and state security minister – faces a daunting task in tackling Zimbabwe’s worst economic crisis in decade.

In an echo of the Mugabe era, less than $400 million in cash is circulating in the financial system, forcing many to buy dollars at a premium, driving inflation above 30 percent and triggering shortages of fuel and drugs.

Following Monday’s clashes, in which the government said several people died and some 200 were arrested, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions called for three days of stay-at-home protests.

That did not stop protesters from gathering again, however.

In Kuwadzana township on the outskirts of Harare, riot police blocked demonstrators from marching into town and an army helicopter fired tear gas to disperse them, witnesses told Reuters.

The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZHLR) said it had received distress calls from residents in Harare’s Mabvuku and Chitungwiza who were forcibly taken from their homes on Monday and made to remove barricades from roads – a tactic used by Mugabe’s security agents.

A Bulawayo-based journalist told Reuters that police had fired tear gas in the township of Cowdray Park on Tuesday, to stop protesters from looting some shops. South African state broadcaster SABC reported widespread looting in the city.

 

   
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