Five feared dead in Zimbabwe’s violent fuel protests

President Emmerson Mnangagwa

President Emmerson Mnangagwa

Zimbabwe police fired tear gas to disperse protesters in the second city of Bulawayo on Tuesday, a day after the country was rocked by violent demonstrations against a sharp hike in fuel prices.

The crisis is seen undermining efforts by Mnangagwa, who is on a tour of five countries in Europe and Asia, to win back foreign investors and revive the failing economy.

The Zimbabwe Trade Union Confederation (ZCTU), for its part, reiterated its call to strike.

"Cognisant of the need to prevent generalised price increases for goods and services in the country, with the attendant hardships which that will entail especially to the commuting workforce, the government has made a decision to grant a rebate to all registered business entities in manufacturing, mining, commerce, agriculture and transport sectors", he said.

"The government has officially declared its anti-worker, anti-poor and anti-people ideological position", it said.

Speaking during a working visit in Russian Federation on Monday, Mnangagwa said the increase "was necessary and still is".

Legacies of the 37-year rule of Robert Mugabe, which ended with a military takeover in November 2017, include massive unemployment, huge government debts, an acute shortage of hard currency and a crumbling infrastructure.

"I am sure you are aware that as a result of the sanctions imposed on us, those sanctions were able to collapse our own currency", he stated.

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"It's going to reduce demand for fuel because it's now a bit expensive and that will deal with speculative demand if it was there", said economist Godfrey Mugano.

Mnangagwa also announced that foreigners will have to pay in foreign exchange for their fuel.

Government doctors went on a 40-day strike in early December, demanding salaries in United States dollars and improved working conditions, while teachers' unions called a strike this week for better pay but their calls went largely unheeded.

"We have the cheapest fuel in the world".

On Monday, the police had dispersed hundreds of protesters who burnt tyres, erected barricades and looted businesses on the first day of a three-day general strike.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa, a stalwart of the ruling Zanu-PF party who took over on Mugabe's resignation and won contested elections in July, has been unable to bring about the economic turnaround he promised voters and investors. So what we are trying as the government is: "the fuel prices have been adjusted upwards, we intend to ensure that the fuel supply is normalized", Mutodi said. Sources close to indicated on Monday evening that at least three people including a school child were killed.

Nelson Chamisa, the leader of the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change said: "We have a national crisis which is descending into a humanitarian crisis".

"We believe this crisis requires all hands on the deck".

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