Anti-fuel price hike protests continue in Zimbabwe, social media sites blocked

Bulawayo: Protests against the Zimbabwe government’s decision to raise fuel prices continued for the second day, even as hundreds of people complained that they were unable to access popular social networking platforms in the country.

The citizens said that popular messaging applications like Whatsapp and Facebook were inaccessible and journalists, who are covering the anti-fuel hike demonstrations also said that they lost VPN internet connections as well, CNN reported.

Supermarkets and other businesses remained shut on Tuesday after incidents of looting were reported. With public transport suspended owing to the sharp increase of fuel prices, commuters were stranded.
Educational institutions have been shut down in view of the situation and students were asked to not return unless stability was restored.

The police said that they have arrested a number of protesters after they blocked roads and burned tyres in the capital Harare. Although the exact number was not revealed by the authorities, Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum said that around 200 agitators were apprehended.

The protests began after Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa on January 12 announced a 150 per cent hike in fuel prices, triggering anger and discontent among the masses. Defending the hike, he said that the decision was taken to combat the “current shortfall” in the fuel market.

Mnangagwa announced an increase in petrol prices from $1.34 to $3.31 per litre and diesel prices to $3.11 per litre, which ignited the anti-fuel price hike demonstrations across the country.

Agitators, including bus drivers and activists, barricaded main roads with burning tyres, stone blocks and tree branches, as the police had a tough time in quelling the protests, firing warning shots and tear gas on the defiant demonstrators.

The Zimbabwean government said that it “will not hesitate to take action” against the agitators who attempted to destabilise the country. Security has been heightened across the country with military forces being deployed to assist the police.

Zimbabwe is already reeling under a major economic crisis in a decade and the hyperinflated Zimbabwe dollar collapsed in 2008. Since then, the African nation has adopted several currencies, including Indian Rupee and US Dollar for making daily transactions.

After Robert Mugabe stepped down as the country’s president in November last year, Mnangagwa took over, promising an economic turnaround for the destitute African nation.