By Takudzwa Kadzura
Last week saw the largest labor union, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) call for a 3 day stay away under the popular hashtag #zimshutdown.
For a reasonably long period Zimbabweans were trapped in a fuel crisis, shortage of basic commodities and rapid price increase of goods and transport fares. Citizens were enduring hardships in the economically stagnant country. President Mnangagwa’s announcement of fuel price increase was the spark that triggered citizens to rise and worse still he flew out the following day.
Immediately after, social media was awash with stay away messages and indeed the suffering Zimbabweans heeded and cooperated in the demonstration mainly youths who have spent much of their lives in the streets without employment and living on a hand to mouth struggle.
Monday in Bulawayo and Harare woke up to barricaded roads to restrict people from going to work. In Bulawayo the tension had a greater altitude as youths started burning tires and turning away people and cars to vacate the CBD and stay in their homes as they marched to Bulawayo High Court.
Likewise Harare suburbs of Mabvuku, Epworth, Kuwadzana and Chitungwiza engaged the protests in a similar fashion. The wave soon caught up in other cities like Mutare, Gweru and also towns. The coordination was swift since the regime is unpopular in urban areas.
Government sent in police force in a bid to thwart the protests but all was in vain as they were overpowered by the marauding crowds. This deployment of police fuelled violence as they clashed with the protestors.
The Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR) stated that 172 people had been injured of which 68 were treated for gunshot wounds. By 18 January the ZADHR had recorded 844 human rights violations that included 78 gunshot injuries, 466 arbitrary arrests and detentions as well as 242 cases of assault.
On day 2 the whole nation was blocked from accessing social media and biggest network provider Econet confirmed that it was a directive from the government. Zimbabweans started using VPNs before the government ordered another total internet shutdown as confirmed by Econet as well.
Civil society leading activist Evan Mawarire was arrested and has since been denied bail after being charged of treason. Reportedly 6 mdc alliance leaders have been acquitted also. ZCTU secretary-general Moyo has also been arrested. So far 12 deaths have been confirmed.
Throughout the country police raids were conducted targeting opposition electoral strong holds and civilians were violently assaulted. The events attracted international parties including the United Nations which issued a warning, the Democratic Alliance and EFF of South Africa also called for their government to intervene. Zimbabweans abroad also voiced out their displeasure with the Zanu government, in South Africa and the UK.
Lately Jeremy Hunt foreign secretary of Britain has also urged the president not to turn back the clock and spoke against use of disproportionate force, human rights abuse and internet blackout. Routinely the government plastered blame on the Chamisa led MDC Alliance.
Nelson Chamisa has also condemned the violence unleashed on the civilians and has been visiting the injured and attending funerals of the victims.
The government outlined that the civilians had stolen army uniforms to punctuate their malice and justify gross human rights violations.
President Mnangagwa has prematurely adjourned his economic tour and has returned to his burning house.