Police in Zimbabwe on Wednesday opened fire at hundreds of people protesting against alleged brutality by security forces in Harare. Gunshots were heard and the police were seen beating protesters and firing teargas canisters to disperse the crowd.
Zimbabwe has been recently rocked by anti-government protests and on Monday, more than two hundred opposition supporters staged demonstrations demanding electoral reform. Last week, women were out protesting in fresh demands for better education and healthcare for their families.
Two pick-up trucks belonging to state broadcaster ZBC and police were burned, according to a Reuters witness, but it was not clear who had torched the cars or whether anyone was hurt.
The protesting youths accused President Robert Mugabe of dictatorship, demanded his resignation and denounced the police for using excessive force against peaceful demonstrators.
Violence escalated when people started retaliating to police beatings by throwing stones. A journalist was among those beaten during today’s protest.
The violent caused banks and businesses to close and soldiers who were seen waiting in line at downtown Harare banks were forced to go home empty handed. They are always the first among civil servants to get paid.
The police accused the opposition of using mobsters during protests to attack them. The sealed off roads leading to the opposition MDC office causing confrontation with protesters. The MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai and former Vice President Joice Mujuru are expected to lead a protest on Friday.
Demonstrations against high unemployment, acute cash shortages and corruption are widespread in the southern African nation where members of the country’s war veterans association are now being persecuted for challenging President Robert Mugabe’s rule.
Zimbabwe’s government announced Wednesday that at least 8,000 agricultural ministry workers would be laid off, a decision that is likely to cause discontent and further protest. A statement from the government said it has abandoned recruitment and promotion of civil servants.
At least 80% of Zimbabwe’s revenue is used for paying wages of civil servants and 90% of its population has no formal employment with looming that has caused food and cash shortages, and the country battling to pay public servants.
President Robert Mugabe ruled the southern African nation since 1980. Though one of the most educated African leaders, the 92 year old president who refused to retire unless Queen Elizabeth does the same has overseen an economic collapse of Zimbabwe.