Troops and police were out in force in Zimbabwe’s second city of Bulawayo on Monday to prevent a planned opposition march, days after brutally dispersing a similar banned protest in Harare.
Soldiers and armed police on horseback and in trucks were seen patrolling the central business district and most of the high-density suburbs.
Using a loudhailer, police warned people against joining the demonstration, called to protest deteriorating economic conditions.
One of the city’s usually busy areas, the precincts of Tredgold Magistrate Courts, where illegal forex changers ply their trade, was cordoned off by police.
Police have also set up checkpoints on most roads leading to the city centre.
Zimbabwean police banned the protests organised by the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) after they violently dispersed protesters who had defied a similar order in Harare on Friday.
The MDC is challenging the ban in court.
The protesters are angry over the country’s floundering economy and the jailing of a well-known government critic, tribal chief Felix Ndiweni.
The chief who is highly revered in the western Matabeleland region of the country, was last week jailed for 18 months for allegedly destroying a villager’s property.
Police fired teargas and beat up several demonstrators in Harare on Friday after they gathered in a square where the protest had originally been scheduled to start.
Friday’s protests were the first since President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s decision to hike fuel prices by more than 100 per cent sparked nationwide demonstrations in January which left at least 17 people dead and several injured when soldiers opened fire.
Mnangagwa took over from long-time ruler Robert Mugabe, and then won disputed elections in July last year vowing to revive the economy.
But Zimbabweans say things have gone from bad to worse with shortages of bread, fuel, medicines and other goods and the skyrocketing cost of living.
According to the UN, about five million Zimbabweans, or a third of the population, are in need of food aid.
“We are deeply concerned by the socio-economic crisis that continues to unfold in Zimbabwe, the UN Human Rights spokesman Rupert Colville said in Geneva on Friday.
“We urge the Government to find ways to engage with protesters, and to refrain from the use of violence”, it further stated.