HARARE, JAN 14 — Zimbabwe’s capital Harare was deserted on Monday as Zimbabweans began a three-day national stayaway in protest against fuel price hikes and the general economic meltdown.
Both human and vehicle traffic was thinner than usual as banks, shops and offices that had initially opened, closed around mid-morning as some of the protesters became violent, resulting in police firing tear gas to disperse them.
Unconfirmed reports said a number of protesters were shot and injured during clashes with police in the sprawling suburb of Epworth in Harare.
The protesters are seen by witnesses to have barricaded roads with boulders in most of Harare’s high density suburbs to prevent vehicles and commuter omnibuses from ferrying people to work.
The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions in conjunction with several social movements such as #This Flag called for the three-day stayaway in protest against the worsening economic situation in the country.
At the weekend, President Emmerson Mnangagwa hiked the price of fuel by more than 100 percent to try and address shortages of the commodity in the country.
Following the price increases, petrol now costs 3.31 U.S. dollars per liter, up from 1.37 while diesel now sells at 3.11 dollars per liter, up from 1.24 dollars.
Meanwhile, police maintained a heavy presence in the central business district to maintain law and order.
Home Affairs Minister Cain Mathema also warned people against infringing on the rights of others by blocking roads and causing chaos by forcing work-bound people to return home.
The authorities have also castigated people abusing social media by posting inflammatory statements agitating Zimbabweans to engage in violence and unsanctioned demonstrations.
The minister’s comments come in the wake of reports that some rowdy youths were Monday morning burning tyres and blocking roads in most high density suburbs of Harare.
The stayaway is taking place at a time when President Mnangagwa left Harare Monday for a four-nation tour of Russia, Azerbaijan, Belarus and Kazakhstan as he seeks to consolidate ties with the eastern European countries.
He is also due to travel to Davos, Switzerland, for the World Economic Forum which takes place Jan. 22-25. – XINHUA