Protests erupted in Zimbabwe on Monday as citizens react to hikes in fuel prices announced over the weekend.
Protesters burnt tyres, barricade roads and blocked buses from carrying passengers at some terminals. It forced many commuters to be stranded for hours.
There were reports of some of these protesters clashing with police with the army intervening to disperse them.
Agitations are intense in Harare and Bulawayo, according to local media reports. There have been reports of police officers shooting some of the protesters.
The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) last week called for a nationwide strike over current economic crisis.
Over the weekend President Emmerson Mnangagwa announced new measures to deal with current fuel shortages in the country.
Those measures include a 100% rise in the price of petrol and diesel.
Clashes in Harare’s Epworth suburb. Anti riot police clashing with protesters. Army helicopter flying over to disperse demonstrators. The protests are in response to the @ZctuZimbabwe call for a nationwide strike.
— Privilege Musvanhiri (@Musvanhiri) January 14, 2019
There are videos and pictures of police firing tear gas to disperse protesters.
— ZimLive (@zimlive) January 14, 2019
New fuel prices
Petrol prices have now increased from $1.24 a litre to $3.31, with diesel up from $1.36 a litre to $3.1.
President Mnangagwa says the increased prices of petrol and diesel are to help tackle a shortfall caused by increased fuel usage and “rampant” illegal trading.
The main opposition and the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) is accusing the government of lacking ideas to bring relief to citizens.
NATIONAL STAYAWAY IS ON WITH IMMEDIATE EFFECT. Mon 14, Tues 15, Wed 16 Jan 2019. Together with @ZctuZimbabwe we call on all citizens to participate in calling this Gvt to order concerning this major crisis. NO WORK, NO SCHOOL, NO BUSINESS. Remain peaceful #Zimshutdown #WeAreOne pic.twitter.com/dlky5ctlVc
— #ThisFlag E Mawarire (@PastorEvanLive) January 13, 2019
The leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) Nelson Chamisa has called the situation “a national crisis which is descending into a humanitarian crisis”.
Fellow Zimbabweans, we acknowledge and understand that we have a national crisis, which is descending into a humanitarian crisis. We believe this crisis requires all hands on the deck. We will lead and stand ready to play a key role in finding a lasting solution.
— nelson chamisa (@nelsonchamisa) January 12, 2019
Worsening economic crisis
The Zimbabwean government is already struggling to deal with a currency crisis which has brought the economy onto its kneels.
It now says it intends introducing a new national currency in the coming months.
The country currently uses the U.S. dollar as its national currency but due to ongoing economic issues, the currency has been in short supply.
Zimbabwe in 2009 decided to abandon its own currency. It resorted to other currencies to resolve its economic woes including using the Sterling and South African rand.
The country’s finance minister Mthuli Ncube told a town hall meeting on Friday that the new currency should help address ongoing crisis.
“On the issue of raising enough foreign currency to introduce the new currency, we are on our way already, give us months, not years,” he said.
Zimbabwe has some $10 billion of electronic funds trapped in local bank accounts. It is unable to provide enough hard currency to back that up.
Public sector workers and businesses are also demanding payment in cash and not electronically, compounding the crisis.