Hundreds arrested as Zimbabwe violence continues

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Zimbabwean doctors treated nearly 70 people for gunshot wounds while police rounded up hundreds after violent protests this week triggered by a steep rise in fuel prices.

The protests, five months after six people died in post-election demonstrations, pose a challenge for President Emmerson Mnangagwa who promised to repair the struggling economy when he replaced long-time leader Robert Mugabe.

Three people died during protests with rights groups, lawyers and witnesses saying scores of people were beaten by soldiers, pointing to a heavy crackdown on dissent by security forces.

State broadcaster ZBC said 600 people, including a prominent activist and an opposition legislator, were detained over the protests. A Zimbabwean lawyers’ group was so far representing more than 130 people arrested for protesting.

Evan Mawarire, a Harare pastor who rose to prominence as a Mugabe critic and led a national protest shutdown in 2016, will appear in court to face public violence charges.

Courts dismissed similar charges against him in 2017 for lack of evidence.

The Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR) said its members treated 172 people, some with dog bites, in private and public hospitals since Monday, when protests erupted in Harare and Bulawayo.

“There are patients with chest trauma and fractured limbs who were forcibly taken from hospital to attend court despite the advice of doctors,” ZAHDR said in a statement.

The casualty list included 68 people treated for gunshot wounds, 17 who underwent emergency surgery.

FAMILIAR WAYS

Zimbabweans hoped Mnangagwa would make good on pre-election pledges to revive the economy and break with the Mugabe era, but Zimbabwe has fallen back into familiar ways.

Some businesses and banks re-opened but others remained closed as calm returned on Thursday, after the three-day stay-at-home strike called by the main labour union ended.

At a Stanbic Bank branch, banking halls were empty. An official said workers did not report for duty because they could not find public transport. There were few public taxis leaving many stranded.

Media platforms such as Whatsapp, Facebook and Twitter remained blocked because of a government order, leading to accusations it wanted to prevent images of heavy-handedness from being broadcast.

“Matters are beginning to normalise so going to work is the only option otherwise our families will suffer,” said James Vambe, a Harare trader.