Zim shuts down internet, social media as fuel protests continue

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Cyclists pass a wholesale store that was closed amid protests in Harare, Zimbabwe, on Tuesday (January 15 2019). Picture: Philimon Bulawayo/Reuters
Cyclists pass a wholesale store that was closed amid protests in Harare, Zimbabwe, on Tuesday (January 15 2019). Picture: Philimon Bulawayo/Reuters

Things are seemingly calm and less chaotic than yesterday, but Zimbabwean protesters are now facing an internet shutdown following violent clashes with the army on Monday over fuel price hikes.

Well-known author, activist and pastor, Evan Mawarire, claimed that he was being silenced for his commentary on the protests.

Mawarire also said in a Tweet earlier today that he unable to use social media unless he was on a VPN.

Other citizens have also tweeted about social media and internet restrictions, with some saying that systems had been jammed and that they had limited access.



News started circulating on Monday that the government had allegedly threatened to shut down the internet, which was seen as an infringement on freedom of speech.

Soldiers were deployed to major cities Harare and Bulawayo after the government more than doubled fuel prices to R43 a litre.

Protesters burned tyres, barricaded roads and torched cars before the army was called in to intervene.

In Bulawayo protesters marched through the streets chanting for the removal of President Emmerson Mnangagwa. Sporadic looting broke out during demonstrations.

The police used rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse crowds.

The country had already been battling with a shortage of fuel before Mnangagwa announced the fuel price hikes late on Sunday evening.

There were reports of drivers being forced to queue for hours to fill up, and essentials such as bread, oil and medicine was scarce.

Authorities say that at least 200 people had been arrested since the protests broke out on Monday and that an unspecified number of civilians had been killed in clashes with the army.

In the capital Harare, most shops remained closed following Monday’s demonstrations. Minibus taxis that usually transport workers were not operating, bringing the city centre to a standstill.

In Kuwadzana suburb, which lies on the city’s western border, police were on patrol and reportedly forced people off the streets.

One resident, Tawanda Mataya, told AFP that he and his 17-year-old son had been beaten up by police.

“It’s so painful. I was standing at my gate to assess whether I could go to work then this group of police who were passing by started beating me.

“My son who heard me screaming and opened the window to see what was happening and was slapped several times,” Mataya said.

As the calls for national shutdown continue into day two, the Zimbabwe Trade Union Confederation (ZCTU) has reiterated its call to strike.

“Today it’s day two of the shutdown. We urge workers and citizens everywhere to stay at home,” ZCTU tweeted.

“Our struggle is genuine and there must be economic reform for the poor to survive.”

Meanwhile, on Tuesday morning the Twitter account of the ministry of information said that “public order has been restored”.

Mnangagwa, who is currently on a tour of European countries, is expected to attend the World Economic Forum at Davos, Switzerland, next week.

Speaking in Russia on Monday, Mnangagwa said that the fuel price increase “was necessary and still is”.

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