Life has come to a standstill in the Zimbabwean capital after violent protests over the government’s announcement of a massive hike in fuel prices turned deadly.
The streets of Harare were virtually empty Tuesday, with many businesses, banks and schools closed, after a call for a three-day strike by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions in response to an intensifying economic crisis.
Several people were killed when police in Harare and Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s second-largest city, fired live ammunition at protesters, who threw rocks, burned tires and blocked streets. Authorities have not released an official death toll, but the Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights tells the Associated Press that five people were killed in Monday’s unrest.
At least 200 people were arrested.
Zimbabweans are angry over President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s announcement last Saturday of a 150 percent rise in fuel prices.
Mnangagwa on Monday defended the decision at the start of a five-nation tour.
"Zimbabwe is going through both political and economic reforms and these do not come easily," he told reporters in Moscow. "It will take time for things to settle and results to be shown."
He said the fuel price hike was necessary because local fuel was the cheapest in the region.
Mnangagwa, who took power after longtime leader Robert Mugabe was forced to resign in November 2017, is trying to win back foreign investors sidelined under Mugabe.
The protests are the biggest unrest in Zimbabwe since deadly post-election riots last August.