Sharp hike in fuel prices triggers angry protests in two Zimbabwean cities


Angry protesters barricade the main route to Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare, from Epworth township on January 14 2019 after the government announced a more than 100-percent hike in fuel prices. (Photo by AFP)

Protesters have taken to the streets in Zimbabwe to voice their outrage over a sharp hike in fuel prices recently announced by President Emmerson Mnangagwe as a measure to tackle the country’s worst fuel shortage in a decade.

Angry protests were held in the capital, Harare, and the country’s second city of Bulawayo on Monday, only two days after Mnangagwe announced more than 100-percent rise in the price of petrol and diesel,

Commuters were stranded in the cities as the protesters barricade roads and blocked buses from carrying passengers.

In Bulawayo, police fired tear gas at the protesters, who gathered outside the high court, according to video footage from the Center For Innovation & Technology.

A group of angry protesters also attacked minibuses heading to the city center and used burning tires and stones to block the main routes into Bulawayo.

Some schools were also turning away children fearing for their safety.

Protesters gather on the streets in Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare, on January 14, 2019. (Photo by AP)

“We want Mnangagwa to know our displeasure in his failure,” said a protester. “Mugabe [former president] was evil but he listened.”

A resident in Epworth, a poor suburb east of Harare, described the situation in the city as “tense since early morning.”

“Roads are blocked with huge stones and there are angry people preventing commuter buses from carrying passengers. People are just stranded,” Nhamo Tembo told AFP.

In the capital city, Zimbabwe police were deployed to patrol and stop and search citizens.

The new rise in price is seen by many as the beginning of a tough year under Mnangagwa, took over from longtime leader Robert Mugabe and won a disputed election last July.

Mnangagwa had pledged to revive the economy and end the country’s international isolation.

Zimbabwe riot police are seen on a street din the capital Harare, on January 14, 2019. (Photo by AP)

In a press conference Saturday night, the president said prices of petrol and diesel would more than double to tackle a shortfall caused by increased fuel usage and “rampant” illegal trading.

Petrol prices rose from $1.24 a liter to $3.31, with diesel up from $1.36 a liter to $3.11 starting Sunday.

The leader of opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), Nelson Chamisa, warned “about a national crisis which is descending into a humanitarian crisis.”

The main labor alliance, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), also accused the government of showing a clear lack of empathy for the already overburdened poor.

The president is now facing a huge task with the unions representing doctors and teachers, who have been on strike for better pay and improved work conditions.

Doctors in state hospitals went on a 40-day strike beginning early December. Teachers unions also called a strike last week.

Mnangagwa, however, warned that his government would come down hard on “elements bent on taking advantage of the current fuel shortages to cause and sponsor unrest and instability in the country.”

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