Soldiers patrol deserted Harare in wake of deadly chaos
Shops and streets deserted in the capital, the scene of violence two days before, as stayaway over fuel hike enters third day
The streets of Harare were mostly deserted on Wednesday, the third and final day of a stayaway called by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions to protest against the huge petrol price increase.
This sharply contrasted with the chaos that erupted when the hike was announced on Monday, sparking deadly clashes between police and demonstrators in Harare and Bulawayo.
Images of people shot at by police flooded social media, including one of a woman with a deep gunshot wound to her thigh. She said she had not been taking part in protests, but the police shot at her anyway.
Then, on Tuesday, the city’s streets were suddenly deserted as residents heeded the call to stay away, despite the government’s assurances that the police would protect those who chose to go to work.
Banks, schools and fuel stations remained closed in Harare. At the city’s major market, Mbare, only a few stalls were open for business, while public transport was not available, with some hitching lifts from the few private cars on the road.
A Times Select correspondent noted one open filling station in the city centre – guarded by about five military policemen. At one of the OK supermarkets in the Avenues – a residential area closer to the CBD – soldiers only allowed five people to shop at a time, ostensibly to prevent a repeat of Monday’s looting.
The OK supermarket in the city centre was closed, as were restaurants including Nando’s and Steers.
The Harare City Council building remained closed, although there seemed to be some activity in the High and Constitutional courts, where people had reported for work.
Protesters ‘are being dealt with’
Meanwhile, in a Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation bulletin, information minister Monica Mutsvangwa described what happened on Monday as “terrorism”.
She laid the blame squarely with the opposition Movement for Democratic Change-Alliance, saying the protests were well orchestrated and designed to remove a legitimately elected government and replace it with an unelected person.
Mutsvangwa added that security organs were out in full force and dealing with the protesters. One policeman had been killed and more than 200 protesters arrested.
The internet remained unavailable across Zimbabwe.
A call to ‘hooligans’ in power The Movement for Democratic Change-Alliance has called on President Emmerson Mnangagwa to end the military siege and state violence against unarmed civilians.
MDC spokesperson Dr Nkululeko Sibanda said on Wednesday the government had acted like hooligans and terrorists over the past three days.
Sibanda said that in response to the shocking, incompetent manner in which Mnangagwa ran the government, the people of Zimbabwe had peacefully come out in their numbers on Monday to demand a government that could actually think and govern.
Sibanda accused Mnangagwa’s government of ordering the Presidential Guard members out of their uniforms, and giving them civilian cars and high-powered automatic battle guns to run riot against unarmed citizens.
“Once again, these military men fired live ammunition at unarmed civilians, killing several. Over the last two days, he ordered an internet and communications blockade, during which the numbers of those killed and maimed may have increased,” Sibanda said.
The MDC asked the government to withdraw the army from the streets, restore the internet, and allow peaceful protest to continue. It also asked government to free all those arrested during the protests and to investigate all the murders and prosecute all the guilty officers.
– Ernest Mabuza