HARARE – The European Union has called for calm in Zimbabwe after at least 13 people were shot and several killed during riots over fuel price increases on Monday.
Timo Olkkonen, the head of delegation of the European Union to Zimbabwe said security forces, including the military which was deployed for a second time inside six months by the embattled President Emmerson Mnangagwa, must “respond to rioting proportionally”, while also urging protesters to remain peaceful.
Olkkonen said he followed “with growing concern events unfolding in Harare and elsewhere in Zimbabwe”, adding: “People have a constitutional right to demonstrate, but this should be exercised peacefully. Security forces should respond to rioting proportionally, professionally and respect human rights.”
Britain’s ambassador to Zimbabwe Melanie Robinson, writing on Twitter, described the clashes between protesters, police and the military as “troubling”.
“Zimbabweans should be able to protest, but this should be peaceful. And security forces need to act proportionately and with restraint,” she tweeted.
On Monday evening, the Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR) said it had treated 24 shooting victims, and recorded at least five deaths.
The killings had an echo of the August 1, 2018, post-election shooting of civilians during protests over delayed election results, later blamed on the military by an official inquiry set up by Mnangagwa. The inquiry said 34 people had been shot, six of whom died.
The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), the country’s largest union, called mass work “stay-aways” for Monday to Wednesday to protest a “provocative” 150 percent fuel price increase announced by Mnangagwa on Saturday. The price hike triggered economy-wide price increases, further worsening the living conditions of ordinary people, the ZCTU said.
Spontaneous groups of protesters in urban centres poured into the streets however, barricading roads and singing songs denouncing the government. Riot police responded by firing tear gas, leading to clashes as the military was also deployed.
The Zimbabwe government has blamed the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), some non-governmental organisations and unidentified “foreign agents” for the riots, which were concentrated in Kadoma, Harare, Bulawayo and Chitungwiza.
State Security Minister Owen Ncube claimed the riots were “intended to undermine the ongoing re-engagement efforts of the President to market Zimbabwe at high level fora such as the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.”
Mnangagwa, ignoring calls to stay at home and reach out to opposition rivals to find a solution to the deepening economic crisis, left the country on Sunday on a five-country tour that will take him to Russia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Serbia and Switzerland.
“The events of the past 24 hours have been characterised by a well-coordinated criminal behaviour, destructive and violent pattern which included the barricading of roads, harassment of innocent members of the public, burning of cars, disruption of children’s lessons in schools, forced closure of business entities, attempts to overrun police posts, destruction of property, unlawful possession and discharging of firearms in public, attacking tollgates and robbing them of cash as well as looting of shops,” Ncube said in a statement.
“In short, this was terrorism and total breakdown of rule of law and order which had nothing to do with the constitutional right of citizens to demonstrate peacefully as enshrined in Section 59 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe.”
He claimed the government was “aware of the ring leaders, their modus operandi and their funders” while appealing to Zimbabweans to ignore the ZCTU stay-away.
Ncube specifically identified the Crisis Coalition in Zimbabwe, bringing together several rights groups, as one of the instigators of the riots. He claimed the MDC had “activated its notorious terror groups which include the so-called Democratic Resistance Committees and the para-military Vanguard.”
The MDC rejected the accusations, putting the blame for the riots firmly at the feet of Mnangagwa and his government.
“By announcing irrational fuel prices the heinous government should be held to account for incitement and creating a security situation. The povo is angry and alienated. There is massive unrest across the country. The crises is beyond this regime and only MDC can resolve same,” MDC deputy national chairman and former finance minister Tendai Biti said.
Source: Zim Live