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Zimbabwe fuel protests end in violent police crackdown

WATCH ABOVE: Protesters barricaded roads and burned tires in Zimbabwe this week in outrage over a fuel price hike announced by President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Saturday.

Zimbabwean doctors said on Thursday they had treated nearly 70 people for gunshot wounds while police rounded up hundreds after violent protests this week triggered by President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s decision to steeply raise fuel prices.

While some businesses and banks opened after the three-day stay-at-home strike, inflation data for December showed the annual consumer price index soaring to 42 per cent, adding more woes to citizens struggling with daily life.

WATCH BELOW: Scores injured, hundreds arrested as Zimbabwe police crack down on protests

Scores injured, hundreds arrested as Zimbabwe police crack down on protests
Scores injured, hundreds arrested as Zimbabwe police crack down on protests

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

READ MORE: Zimbabwe’s 94-year-old former president Robert Mugabe no longer able to walk

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The protests, which took place only five months after six people were killed in post-election demonstrations last August, pose a challenge for Mnangagwa who promised to repair the struggling economy after he replaced long-time leader Mugabe following a coup in November 2017.

Three people died during the protests but rights groups, lawyers and witnesses said scores were beaten by soldiers in a crackdown on dissent by security forces.

WATCH BELOW: U.S. election observers rain on Mnangagwa’s parade in Zimbabwe

U.S. election observers rain on Emmerson Mnangagwa’s parade in Zimbabwe
U.S. election observers rain on Emmerson Mnangagwa’s parade in Zimbabwe

State broadcaster ZBC said 600 people, including a prominent activist and an opposition legislator, have been detained over the protests. A Zimbabwean lawyers’ group said it 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 on Thursday appear in court to face public violence charges.

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

WATCH BELOW: Activist pastor arrested as fuel protests in Zimbabwe enter third day

Activist pastor arrested as fuel protests in Zimbabwe enter third day
Activist pastor arrested as fuel protests in Zimbabwe enter third day

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

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

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

Fuel shortages remain

Some businesses and banks re-opened in the capital but others remained closed as calm returned on Thursday. But in the second city of Bulawayo, which witnessed widespread looting, businesses remained shut, local journalists in the city said.

At a branch owned by Stanbic Bank in Harare, the banking halls were empty with no customers and workers. An official said workers did not report for duty because they could not find public transport. There were very few public taxis on the road, leaving many people stranded.

A cyclist rides past an deserted service station in the high density suburb of Mbare,Harare, Zimbabwe, 16 January 2019.
A cyclist rides past an deserted service station in the high density suburb of Mbare,Harare, Zimbabwe, 16 January 2019. EPA/AARON UFUMELI

Long lines formed at the few filling stations selling fuel and in central Harare, soldiers in two army lorries kept an eye at a garage selling petrol.

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READ MORE: Rage over fuel - Why France's 'yellow vest' protesters rioted in Paris

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

“Things are beginning to normalize now so going to work is the only option otherwise our families will suffer,” said James Vambe, a trader in Harare.

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Dollar shortages are battering the economy, rocketing inflation is destroying the value of citizens’ savings and the government is reacting forcefully to crush dissent.

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