by Tichaona Chifamba
HARARE, JAN 21 — Virtually all shops re-opened Monday after the violence that flared in Harare and other parts of the country when Zimbabweans protested against fuel price increases announced by President Emmerson Mnangagwa recently.
There had been calls on social media and other channels for people to stay home again for the first three days of the working week, prompting many people to first assess the situation before taking trips to work.
Both vehicular and human traffic remained thin on the streets, but calm prevailed as residents went about with their chores.
Schools also re-opened but some parents had also opted to play it safe and see how the day went before sending their children to school.
Official figures put the number of people who died in the violent demonstrations to three – including a policeman – but independent sources say that at least 12 people died mainly as a result of gunshot wounds in running battles between demonstrators and security agencies.
Many shops were damaged and looted, motor vehicles set on fire during the demonstrations, while the police and the military were accused of indiscriminately assaulting civilians where they allegedly targeted able-bodied men.
Soldiers were still reportedly patrolling some residential suburbs on Monday ostensibly looking for alleged looters.
The fuel price increases of around 140 percent had led private operators of the small commuter omnibuses to drastically increase fares, further burdening workers who are reeling from other price increases on basic commodities.
In response, the government mobilized conventional buses to ferry passengers around the country at subsided fares as part of long-term measures to revamp public transport system in the country.
The state-owned Zimbabwe United Passenger Company is coordinating the new transport system after it was tasked to manage a fleet of buses involving other private operators.
Meanwhile, Mnangagwa was due to arrive back home any time after he cancelled his trip to Davos, Switzerland, to return home from a tour of Eastern Europe and deal with the economic situation.
He was due to travel to Davos for the World Economic Forum Jan. 22 – 25 after visiting Russia, Belarus, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan but Zimbabwe will now be represented at the forum by finance minister Mthuli Ncube. – XINHUA