Zimbabwe police clamps down on fuel price protesters

Scores arrested
Zimbabwe's top activist arrested
Protesters sing during a demonstration of Zimbabwean citizens outside the Zimbabwean Embassy in Pretoria on January 16, 2019, following the announcement of a petrol price hike in Zimbabwe and the recent shut down of mobile phone networks and internet services. – Three people were shot dead on January 15 and many were injured when Zimbabwean security forces cracked down on protests triggered by the president’s announcement on January 13 that fuel would more than double in price as the country’s economic crisis deepens. Zimbabwe’s mobile phone networks and internet were shut down for the second day on January 16. (Photo by Phill Magakoe / AFP)

Scores of Zimbabwean civilians including a prominent political activist were arrested to face public order charges on Wednesday, lawyers said, as authorities moved to clamp down on dissent in response to protests against fuel price hikes.

Soldiers and police were patrolling Harare townships and beating some people in their homes, residents said.

Shops, banks and restaurants in the centre of the capital remained closed and there was little road traffic on the third and final day of the stay-at-home protest called by unions.

Evan Mawarire, a Harare pastor who rose to prominence as a critic of former leader Robert Mugabe, was bundled into the back seat of a truck by about a dozen armed police early on Wednesday, a Reuters reporter observed. 

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He was to be charged with inciting public violence, said lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa, who witnessed the arrest along with a Reuters cameraman.
There was no immediate comment from the government on the series of arrests or allegations of violence by the security forces.

A spokesman for Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights said it was representing 62 others also due to be charged with public violence. Police said on Tuesday they had arrested more than 200 people following the protests.

Three people, including a police officer, died in violent demonstrations on Monday, after President Emmerson Mnangagwa increased the price of fuel by more than 150 percent.

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Many Zimbabweans accuse Mnangagwa of failing to live up to pre-election pledges to kick-start economic growth and make a clean break with the strong-arm rule of Mugabe, who was forced out in November 2017 after 37 years in power.

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