Scores arrested as Zimbabwe police clamp down on fuel price protests

People arrested during protests wait to appear in the Magistrates court in Harare, Zimbabwe, on Wednesday. — Reuters

HARARE — Scores of Zimbabwean civilians including a prominent political activist were arrested to face public order charges on Wednesday, lawyers said, as authorities moved to clamp down on dissent in response to protests against fuel price hikes.

Soldiers and police were patrolling Harare townships and beating some people in their homes, residents said.

Shops, banks and restaurants in the center of the capital remained closed and there was little road traffic on the third and final day of the stay-at-home protest called by unions.

Evan Mawarire, a Harare pastor who rose to prominence as a critic of former leader Robert Mugabe, was bundled into the back seat of a truck by about a dozen armed police early on Wednesday.

He was to be charged with inciting public violence, said lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa, who witnessed the arrest along with a cameraman.

There was no immediate comment from the government on the series of arrests or allegations of violence by the security forces.

A spokesman for Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights said it was representing 62 others also due to be charged with public violence. Police said on Tuesday they had arrested more than 200 people following the protests.

Three people, including a police officer, died in violent demonstrations on Monday, after President Emmerson Mnangagwa increased the price of fuel by more than 150 percent.

Many Zimbabweans accuse Mnangagwa of failing to live up to pre-election pledges to kick-start economic growth and make a clean break with the strong-arm rule of Mugabe, who was forced out in November 2017 after 37 years in power.

Mawarire, who led a national shutdown in 2016, said police had surrounded his house after he used Facebook posts to urge Zimbabweans to heed the stay-at-home protest. — Reuters