Violence instigated by MDC-Alliance and its associates in the non-governmental sector left a trail of destruction in Harare, Bulawayo and other cities yesterday. They also used social media to threaten people who intended to go to work.
Hooligans barricaded roads, burnt cars and stormed schools where they beat up teachers. They looted supermarkets, stoned or torched police and private vehicles and buses. They beat up police officers trying to ensure law and order.
Most affected were Harare, Bulawayo, Chitungwiza and Kadoma. In Harare, the rowdy elements terrorised high-density suburbs like Epworth, Rugare, Kuwadzana, Highfields, Mbare, Glen Norah and Budiriro. Others barricaded the Harare-Bulawayo highway near Kuwadzana Extension, where they burnt a bus.
In a clear act of extortion, the rowdy protestors, none of them fit to be workers or motorists affected by the fuel price increase, also demanded "passage fees" from motorists ranging between $2 and $5. They also interrogated motorists demanding to know their particulars, where they were going and why.
Those suspected of going to work were beaten up. A security guard was severely beaten up in Mufakose after thugs saw him seeking transport to go to work. The mob asked motorists questions like, "where are you getting fuel? Is life easy for you?"
At Machipisa Shopping Centre in Highfield, TM supermarket was emptied, shops and pharmacies damaged. In Chitungwiza, they barricaded Hunyani Bridge and denied vehicles passage unless they paid at least $2. At Makoni Shopping Centre, they looted Chicken Inn and pelted OK Supermarket with stones.
In Bulawayo, protesters turned parts of the city's western suburbs into no-go areas as they set up barricades, make shift roadblocks, burnt tyres and attacked police and other law enforcement agents. A police car was burnt down in Pumula, while Choppies supermarkets in New Lobengula and Entumbane were burnt. The Pumula and Lobengula West branches were looted.
Protestors burnt tyres and barricaded streets using drums, trolleys and stones, forcing police to fire tear gas. There were reports of looting from shops in Nkulumane, Lobengula, Pumula, Emganwini and other areas. By 11am, all shops in the city centre had closed. Parents rushed to schools to pick up their children as the protests intensified.
In Tshabalala, protestors stoned Tshabalala Housing Office and Clinic and looted shops. At the home of Zanu-PF Bulawayo provincial chair for the Women's League Cde Eva Bitu in Sizinda, the hooligans burnt three cars and broke windows.
"They came at around 11am and started throwing stones and threatening to burn the house. I immediately jumped over the precast wall and sought refuge at a neighbour's house. I am told they stoned all the windows, destroyed the precast wall and pushed my Ford Ranger into the street before burning it. They returned and burnt down a Nissan Hardbody and a Toyota Vitz which were parked inside the yard," said Cde Bitu.
In Bulawayo's CBD, youths moved around throwing stones, coercing people to go home. Police responded by firing teargas. Bulawayo Mayor Councillor Solomon Mguni was caught in the mayhem while on his way to the High Court for the opening of the 2019 legal year. Bulawayo Provincial Education director Mrs Olicah Kaira said schools closed early as parents withdrew their children due to the violence.
"We went around the schools in the morning to check on the situation and we found a few children and teachers had turned up, but we could tell that everyone was not at ease. I also felt unsafe. We then went back to the office and at provincial level we heard that parents were pulling their children out of school and we were also seeing what was happening outside and what comes first is safety for everyone," she said.
In Kadoma in Mashonaland West Province, MDC-Alliance protestors burnt a Zanu-PF district office in Rimuka. There were no Demonstrations in Chinhoyi, Chegutu, Karoi and Kariba. Peace prevailed in the Midlands Province.
Provincial Affairs Minister Senator Larry Mavima yesterday applauded the people of Midlands for being peaceful in the face of provocation by the opposition. In southern parts of the country covering Masvingo and Matabeleland South provinces, it was peaceful with people going about their daily chores.
National police spokesperson Chief Superintendent Paul Nyathi warned the demonstrators against violence.
"We want to warn and categorically state that police will ensure that arrests are effected particularly in Bulawayo and Harare, where we have seen groups of youths and syndicates burning vehicles, barricading roads with tyres and stones, looting shops, attacking law enforcement officers and intimidating members of the public. What they are doing is unlawful.
"We have got video clips which are now subject to investigation and arrests will certainly be effected. We are aware that there are people who are using the social media to encourage people to engage in all sorts of violence and threatening people," said Chief Supt Nyathi.
Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) president Mr Sifelani Jabangwe said the closure of businesses due to the riots was bad for business.
"The lost hours are bad for business; we are losing production time. We hope the authorities will come up with a strategy that will help the situation because right now what we face is the whole situation being taken over by criminal elements and at that stage what we will have is tragedy, particularly looking at women and children.
"We believe people have the right to protest but they must protest peacefully without trying to force others to join in, without damaging property because it will not help the issue at hand," he said