BY Staff Reporters
At least nine people have reportedly died since the protests started on Monday, but yesterday no fatalities were reported despite the continued beatings of civilians in a brutal crackdown on dissent by security forces.
Businesses, schools and banks were closed in Harare, while its central business district was void of human and vehicular traffic for the third day running.
Government blocked the Internet for over 36 hours until 5pm yesterday, but evidence began to emerge of soldiers and police patrolling high-density suburbs in Harare, Bulawayo and other cities and towns, attacking people in their homes, in scenes reminiscent of the dark days of former President Robert Mugabe’s 37-year reign of terror.
Many cities and towns remained closed as protests continued despite the deployment of soldiers in the political hotbeds of Epworth, Kuwadzana, Chitungwiza, Tafara, Mabvuku, Highfield, Pumula and other areas.
Zimbabweans were protesting against President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s decision to hike fuel prices by 150%, but the President told Russian media in Moscow that the protests were “fizzling out.”
“I understand this, that there were some protests happening yesterday (Monday), but they are almost fizzling out and there is no country which has no challenging problems. These come and pass,” Mnangagwa said in an interview with Sputnik.
In Harare, sources claimed that Zanu PF youths, under the leadership of provincial chairperson Godwin Gomwe, were patrolling suburbs with lists of perceived MDC supporters’ names who were being fished out and assaulted, forcing them to flee their homes.
Some MDC supporters and residents yesterday claimed some of the armed people with AK-47 rifles in civilian clothes were not soldiers, but armed Zanu PF youths.
Zanu PF Harare provincial chairperson Ratidzo Mukarati was seen in her ruling party-branded vehicle patrolling Kuwadzana suburbs with soldiers and police, and was accused of beating up people suspected to be MDC supporters.
She was later reportedly manhandled by a woman whose child was beaten up by security forces. But the woman was taken away by soldiers and her whereabouts were not known by the end of the day. Mukarati was not picking her phone last night.
Reuters reported that the opposition MDC MP for Harare West, Joana Mamombe, was in hiding after soldiers sought her out at her parents’ home on Tuesday and beat up her father, leaving him hospitalised and unable to sit.
“I am very scared for my life. This is a crackdown on those of us who oppose this government. They want to silence opposition voices,” she said by telephone.