There is palpable tension in Zimbabwe were a violent strike has ensued after the government more than doubled the price of fuel in a bid to improve supplies as the country battles its worst gasoline shortages in years.
Protesters turned back drivers and blocked buses from carrying passengers in Zimbabwe’s two main cities of Harare and Bulawayo as the main labour federation called for a three-day nationwide strike.
Soldiers were deployed at a shopping centre in Bulawayo’s township of Entumbane where protesters looted shops.
Demonstrators in the second city had attacked minibusses heading to the city center and used burning tyres and stones to block the main routes into town while some schools were turning away pupils fearing for their safety.
Shops closed in downtown Harare as riot police patrolled the streets and a military helicopter flew over the capital.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Saturday night announced a more than a 100-percent rise in the price of petrol and diesel in a move he said would end fuel shortages.
“We have suffered enough,” author Philani Nyoni who was part of the protest in Bulawayo.
“The government is now aware that we are not happy with their stupid policies like the fuel price increase,” said Nyoni, calling on the president who is on a tour of Europe, to return home to “sort out things”.
‘We have suffered enough’
“We want Mnangagwa to know our displeasure in his failure,” said another Bulawayo protester, Mthandazo Moyo, 22.
“Mugabe was evil but he listened,” he added, referring to former autocratic and long-time ruler Robert Mugabe, who was ousted in November 2017.
Residents in Epworth, a poor suburb east of the capital Harare, on Monday, woke up to find boulders blocking roads and the protesters set ablaze a tent at a police post.
“It’s tense since early morning,” Nhamo Tembo, an Epworth resident said.
Zimbabwe’s economy has been in a slump for more than a decade, with cash shortages, high unemployment and recently a scarcity of staples such as bread and cooking oil.
In a televised address late Saturday, Mnangagwa said prices of petrol and diesel would more than double to tackle a shortfall caused by increased fuel usage and “rampant” illegal trading.