Cafe in Harare becomes focus of online anger during shutdown

Harare - A Harare cafe known for its much-loved prawn salad became the focus of online anger during a national shutdown in Zimbabwe after an employee appeared to boast on Facebook that it was open for business as normal. 

So angry was the reaction that Cafe Nush in the trendy central suburb of Avondale put out an apology and insisted: "We are closed today!" 

Some FB users vowed never to visit the cafe again (though one patron begged the owners to "make me that avocado and prawn salad for a year before you close shop"). Others suggested that the employee might lose her job. 

In a post she later apologised for, Tracey Jones said: "I am in Avondale all quiet here with only Bon Marche [supermarket] open and my workplace Cafe Nush. All my staff have come to work... very peaceful here." 

User Frances-Clare Makurumidze retorted: "Thank you for letting us know. I will not be buying anything from Cafe Nush anymore sadly." 

"Here we are trying to push for a change for the future of ourselves and our children only to have these efforts blocked by people with no vision," wrote another. 

"Social media error of the day"

Many shops stayed shut in Harare and other towns and cities, though large supermarket chains do not appear to have closed. For the first time since 2000, this strike was called by civil activists rather than a single political party, and was meant to protest cash shortages, corruption, the imminent introduction of bond notes and an import ban.

Police spokesperson Charity Charamba called it "planned civil unrest" and said 19 people had been arrested in Harare. State TV later reported that 75 people were arrested in Bulawayo, and at least 17 others were arrested in Victoria Falls, apparently during a protest. Rights lawyers mentioned a number of arrests in other towns. 

The state broadcaster ZBC said in a tweet that the shutdown was a "flop".

Cafe Nush is where the well-known Italian Bakery used to be in the Avondale shopping centre.

The food outlet said in a post to Facebook on Wednesday afternoon that Jones "did not have full understanding of today's orders and operational hours". It said it was only "briefly open" because it had to deliver "pre-arranged orders that had to be collected for Ramadan Eid".

A Twitter user said Cafe Nush had made Zimbabwe's "social media error of the day".

But others pointed out that it was illogical to focus on Cafe Nush and ignore other businesses that had opened for business as normal in Zimbabwe. 

Tweeted @CChivinge of the state Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation: "What has happened to Cafe Nush is cyber-bullying of the worst order." 

Cafe Nush employee Jones said in a later post she "fully support[s] this movement and all it stands for".

Evan Mawarire, the founder of the #ThisFlag protest movement has warned that another stayaway could be held on Wednesday and Thursday next week.

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