Zimbabwe’s week of horror

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Sharon Kavhu

Zimbabwe has been besieged by violent protests, chaos, killings, suspected terrorism, looting, vandalism of state, corporate and private companies, and social media blackout this past week.

These events were sparked by the announcement of fuel price increases by President Emmerson Mnangagwa last Saturday. Fuel prices went up from US$3.31 from US$1.24 a litre and diesel prices to US$3.11 from US$1.36 a litre, which set off protests in Zimbabwe’s capital Harare and the second capital, Bulawayo.

Following the announcement, Evan Mawarire ‑ an activist ‑ and Peter Mutasa ‑ president of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) ‑ released a video encouraging all Zimbabweans to reject the fuel price increase and advocated for better living through a peaceful protest.

In the video, the two urged people to stay in their houses for three days, not going to work or school in participation in the peaceful ‘stay away’. And the video went viral.

Unfortunately, the event degenerated into violent protests with pictures of tyres burning and rocks piled in the middle of the roads trending on social media platforms.

Footages have also emerged of people throwing stones at any car attempting to pass through the blockades.

It is not clear at what point things got to a head began but mobs began to loot shops civilians vandalised state property with reports of children going missing and people being killed in the fiasco. The number of fatalities increased as the violence raged on. Some were allegedly shot dead, while others suffocated as a result of the stampede caused by the chaos.

Gruesome pictures of the dead went viral on social media and some blamed government.

However, an unidentified man wearing black pictured holding a gun and shooting in the air in the melee that has been circulating on social media has stirred the government’s security concern. The picture has raised government suspicion that something much more sinister, such as a terrorist attack, could be at play. Police have since called on the public to help identify the gunman.

As a result of the chaos, internet service providers were instructed to shut down mostly social media such as Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp.

After the looting, the police went door to door searching for the looted goods. To date, 600 people have been arrested, 214 appeared in court in connection with Monday’s violence.

The violent protests erupted while President Mnangagwa was on a state visit in Russia.

However, in response to the situation Mnangagwa justified his trip to Russia airing out his thoughts on the situation and encouraged people to be calm and be in peace. He condemned violence highlighted that there is no justification for violence against people and poverty, adding that violence will not reform the country’s economy.

“Over the past two days as I have been in Russia working on economic agreements that will give our economy a much needed boast, I have been deeply saddened by the events in our beloved homeland.  Wanton violence and cynical destruction is not the Zimbabwean way.  My thoughts and prayers are with all those affected,” said Mnangagwa on his Twitter page.

“As I have said numerous times, everyone in Zimbabwe has the right to express themselves freely-to speak out, to criticise and to protest.  Unfortunately, what we have witnessed is violence and vandalism, instead of peaceful, legal protests.  There can be no justification for violence against people and poverty.  Violence will not reform our economy. Violence will not rebuild our nation.  What will lead to a stronger economy is investment, that is why I travelled to Moscow, and that is why I will be traveling to other countries in the region and then World Economic Forum in Davos.”

He said within the 48 hours he was in Moscow, he has seen signs of serious investments on the way, adding that Alrosa-the world’s largest diamond company has decided to launch operations in Zimbabwe.

Meanwhile, the nation is now calm and in peace.

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