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XINHUA NEWS SERVICE REPORTS FROM THE AFRICAN CONTINENT

 

Sporadic violence in Zimbabwe amid
uncertainty for Investment and Unity

by Gretinah Machingura HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- Sporadic acts of violence in Zimbabwe in the past few months threaten to derail efforts to woo investors and rebuild a united nation.

The country witnessed post-election violence in August 2018, which resulted in the death of six people, injury of at least 35 people and widespread damage of property after opposition MDC Alliance supporters went on the streets and unleashed an orgy of violence in protest against the supposed delay in announcement of national presidential election results.

Emmerson Mnangagwa narrowly won the presidential election, beating his main rival and leader of the MDC Alliance Nelson Chamisa who together with his party, continues to refuse to accept Mnangagwa’s victory.

Mnangagwa set up a seven-member Commission of Inquiry chaired by former South African President Kgalema Motlanthe to investigate the violence and it presented its report to him last November.

Mnangagwa released the report’s findings and recommendations to the public in December last year and it was noted in the report that the violent demonstrations were pre-planned and well orchestrated by the MDC Alliance.

The demonstrations were also not sanctioned by the police.

The report noted that Zimbabwe’s military used disproportionate force in quelling the post-election violence, noting that the death of the six people and injury of 35 people in the violence "arose from the actions of the military and police".

The Commission also found that fake, fabricated and biased news on social media contributed to the violence.

The report recommended compensation to all the affected victims and dependents and urgent availing of medical support to all the injured, as well as dialogue among political parties to foster unity and move the country forward.

While the nation was still waiting for implementation of the inquiry recommendations, another episode of violence occurred in the country last week, this time starting as a mass stay away called by main labor body against high fuel prices but later turning violent, resulting in the death of yet another three people and massive destruction of property.

Yet again, the government put the blame on the MDC Alliance which it accuses of trying to unseat the government of Mnangagwa or force its way into a coalition government.

Presidential spokesperson George Charamba said the MDC Alliance should stop claiming that the orgy of violence it unleashed last week is related to the fuel price review, and should expect to be held fully accountable for loss of life, injuries and damage of property stemming from its illegal actions.

"It is a false narrative to suggest a causal link between the fuel price review and the violence unleashed in the streets by the MDC and its allies.

"For over a month-and-a half, the MDC leadership has been consistently pushing out the message that they will use violent street action to overturn the results of the ballot, or failing that, to force a government of national unity.

"This in itself puts paid to any reading that links the fuel price review to the violence," Charamba said.

Mnangagwa announced the hiking of fuel prices by more than 100 percent mid January to try and address shortages of the commodity in the country.

Police have since arrested at least 700 people, including activist pastor Evan Mawarire for the violent protests. Several MDC Alliance officials have also been arrested.

As life is slowly returning to normal in the country despite a shutdown of the social media by the government, threats are emerging of another round of violent protests planned by the MDC Alliance this week .

Home Affairs minister Cain Mathema says the government is ready to deal with any unlawful demonstrations and on Monday urged Zimbabweans to go about their normal businesses undisturbed.

"As the Ministry of Home Affairs, we want to reassure the public that we will not hesitate to enforce the law today, tomorrow, or in the next 100 years.

"We want to make sure that every Zimbabwean enjoys the peace and freedom we have in the country because Zimbabwe belongs to all Zimbabweans," Mathema said.

In the meantime, Mnangagwa, who was on a four-nation tour of Eastern Europe since Jan. 14, on Sunday cancelled his scheduled trip to Davos, Switzerland from Jan. 22 - 25 and will return home to deal with rising tensions back home.

Zimbabwe will now be represented by finance minister Mthuli Ncube at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

"In light of the economic situation, I will be returning home after a highly productive week of bilateral trade and investment meetings.

"The first priority is to get Zimbabwe calm, stable and working again," he said on Twitter.

The violence has not only cost many people jobs but sends wrong signals to potential investors and has dented the country’s image, according to industry minister Mangaliso Ndlovu.

"We have a burden of rebranding our country and positioning it where it was.

"Hundreds of people have lost their jobs due to destruction of business buildings.

"I am disappointed that Bulawayo (second largest city) was the worst hit by the violent demonstrations. Investors who have plans to bring business in Bulawayo might lose interest now because of hooligans," he said.

Hotels in the country have also felt the pinch of the protests, saying apart from experiencing losses due to cancellation of bookings, business may remain low in the near future due to security concerns.

"There is still a lot of uncertainty.

"Safety and security is a key consideration or travelers and organizations just cancel or postpone an activity if they are not sure that they are secure," said Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe vice-chairperson Clive Chinwada.
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UPDATES:

Zimbabwe court to rule on activist pastor Evan Mawarire bail application

HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- Zimbabwe’s High Court on Friday reserved to Tuesday next week a ruling on the bail application by activist pastor Evan Mawarire.

Mawarire is among hundreds of protesters arrested last week after violent protests broke out in the country.

His bail application was denied at the Harare magistrates courts last week, prompting him to approach the High Court for relief.

He is detained at Chikurubi Maximum Prison in the capital.

Mawarire, leader of the #This Flag, once led a national shutdown in 2016.

He is being charged with subverting the Zimbabwe government and inciting public violence after he recorded a video which went viral on social media, calling on Zimbabweans to stay at home during the three-day protest against fuel price increases.
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Zambian airline suspends flights to Zimbabwe

LUSAKA Zambia (Xinhua) -- A Zambian airline on Wednesday announced that it will suspend flights between the capitals of Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Proflight Zambia said the suspension will begin on Jan. 29, 2019 and it expects to resume flights from March 1, 2019.

"We regret to announce that due to the current situation in Zimbabwe and ongoing challenges with the repatriation of funds from Zimbabwe, we are temporarily suspending our Lusaka/Harare route," said Philip Lemba, the airline’s director of government and industry affairs, in a statement.

Lemba added that the airline will refund all passengers for tickets purchased for travel during this period.

Violence recently broke out in Zimbabwe during protests against an increase in fuel prices, resulting in looting and casualties.

Proflight in July last year launched the route from the Zambian capital Lusaka to the Zimbabwean capital Harare.
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Zimbabwe public sector workers threaten to go on strike after expiry of notice

HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- Zimbabwe public sector workers on Wednesday announced their intention to strike if government fails to address their demand for a salary hike by Friday this week.

The umbrella body of the civil servants, the Apex Council, on Jan. 8 gave notice to go on an industrial action and the 14-day notice will expire on Jan. 28.

Apex Council secretary David Dzatsunga told reporters that the offer from government so far fell short of their demands.

"On the expiry of the notice period on Friday, the Apex Council will not be liable for whatever happens thereafter," Dzatsunga said.

Dzatsunga also raised concern at the alleged victimization of teachers in rural areas by some political party activists, and urged the government to urgently address the matter.

"We note with concern the victimization of government workers by some non-government parties and actors.

"Government should ensure that issues of terms and conditions be left to the government and its employees," he said.

Addressing the same press conference, Secretary-General of the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe Raymond Majongwe alleged that ruling ZANU-PF activists were involved in the victimization of the teachers.

"ZANU-PF party activists are visiting schools in rural areas and getting names of teachers and log-in sheets.

"They have set up bases at some schools to see which teacher is there and not and who is teaching and not.

"We say no to victimization of teachers by anybody in our schools," Majongwe said.

Zimbabwe’s civil servants have been calling for wage increases following a sharp rise in the cost of living, which has been exacerbated by the recent massive hike in fuel prices.

The workers want the lowest paid worker to earn a monthly salary of 1,733 dollars, up from the current 414 dollars.

The threat of strike by the government employees came after junior doctors at government hospitals went on a month-long strike in December last year to press for salaries in U.S. dollars.

Government said it could not afford to pay the salaries in hard currency.

Zimbabweans last week also took to the streets to demonstrate against the increase in fuel prices and the general economic meltdown.

The violent protests resulted in the death of three people, looting of shops and widespread destruction of property.
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South African president calls for lifting Zimbabwe sanctions

HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Tuesday called for the lifting of sanctions against Zimbabwe.

Ramaphosa was speaking at an International Labor Organization meeting in Switzerland Tuesday morning ahead of the World Economic Forum (WEF).

"Zimbabwe has emerged from a very difficult political situation and they held recent elections which went well.

"But they still have sanctions that many countries around the world have imposed on them.

"We are some of those who have been calling on the world to relax the sanctions or lift the sanctions altogether so that Zimbabwe can begin to operate in an economic manner with the capabilities that it has," the president was quoted as saying by the state broadcaster ZBC.

He noted that Zimbabwe is facing economic challenges which the world can assist in addressing if the sanctions are lifted.

Ramaphosa says while South Africa is in negotiations with the Zimbabwe government to find solutions to its challenges, the world must help the situation by lifting sanctions placed on the country.

"The world that has imposed sanctions against Zimbabwe would even be more helpful if those sanctions were to be lifted because then Zimbabwe’s economy can begin to recover..." he said.

The South African president said it is no longer necessary to have sanctions against Zimbabwe as the country has embarked on a path of democracy and real recovery.

Ramaphosa spoke a few hours after Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa arrived back home after cutting short his foreign trip during which he was to attend the WEF in Davos so that he could attend to challenges at home following last week’s violent protests against high fuel prices.
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South Africa ruling African National Congress party
voices concern about situation in Zimbabwe

JOHANNESBURG South Africa (Xinhua) -- South Africa’s ruling party African National Congress (ANC) on Tuesday expressed concern about the situation in Zimbabwe.

"We are concerned about what is happening in Zimbabwe as it is our neighbor ...

"It has a direct impact on the economy of South Africa," said Lindiwe Zulu, ANC’s chairperson of the subcommittee on international relation, said in a press briefing.

"It has an impact on South African business operating in Zimbabwe when they are not paid for the services they would have rendered," said Zulu.

"We have many Zimbabweans living in South Africa. ANC has been engaging Zimbabwe’s ruling party Zanu P.F and we will continue to do so.

"The role of South Africa is not to take over processes but contribute towards creating peace and stability," Zulu said.

She called on Western countries to remove sanctions against Zimbabwe.

Last week, violence broke out in Zimbabwe during protests against an increase in fuel prices, resulting in lootings and casualties.

The ANC said they have been informed that the situation has improved and will continue to monitor it.
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Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa calls
for national dialogue in wake of violent protests

HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Tuesday called for national dialogue to set things right following disturbances that rocked the country last week following the recent hiking of fuel prices.

Mnangagwa, who arrived back home from a overseas tour after abandoning a scheduled trip to Switzerland for the World Economic Forum, said all political parties, religious and civil leaders should set aside their differences and work for the good of the country.

"What unites us is stronger than what could ever divide us.

"Let’s begin a national dialogue.

"Let’s put the economy first.

"Let’s put the people first," he wrote on his Facebook page.

He said when he announced measures to stabilize the country’s crucial fuel supply, he was aware that the measures may not be popular.

However, it was the right thing to do.

"What followed was regrettable and tragic.

"Everyone has the right to protest, but this was not a peaceful protest," he said.

"Likewise, violence or misconduct by our security forces is unacceptable and a betrayal of the new Zimbabwe.

"Chaos and insubordination will not be tolerated.

"Misconduct will be investigated," he added.

Members of the public have accused soldiers and the police of assaulting innocent civilians in the wake of the disturbances that rocked major towns and cities and left at least three people dead, property destroyed and shops looted.
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EARLIER REPORTS:

Shops re-open in Harare following violent protests in response to rising fuel prices

by Tichaona Chifamba HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- Virtually all shops re-opened Monday after the violence that flared in Harare and other parts of the country when Zimbabweans protested against fuel price increases announced by President Emmerson Mnangagwa recently.

There had been calls on social media and other channels for people to stay home again for the first three days of the working week, prompting many people to first assess the situation before taking trips to work.

Both vehicular and human traffic remained thin on the streets, but calm prevailed as residents went about with their chores.

Schools also re-opened but some parents had also opted to play it safe and see how the day went before sending their children to school.

Official figures put the number of people who died in the violent demonstrations to three - including a policeman - but independent sources say that at least 12 people died mainly as a result of gunshot wounds in running battles between demonstrators and security agencies.

Many shops were damaged and looted, motor vehicles set on fire during the demonstrations, while the police and the military were accused of indiscriminately assaulting civilians where they allegedly targeted able-bodied men.

Soldiers were still reportedly patrolling some residential suburbs on Monday ostensibly looking for alleged looters.

The fuel price increases of around 140 percent had led private operators of the small commuter omnibuses to drastically increase fares, further burdening workers who are reeling from other price increases on basic commodities.

In response, the government mobilized conventional buses to ferry passengers around the country at subsided fares as part of long-term measures to revamp public transport system in the country.

The state-owned Zimbabwe United Passenger Company is coordinating the new transport system after it was tasked to manage a fleet of buses involving other private operators.

Meanwhile, Mnangagwa was due to arrive back home any time after he cancelled his trip to Davos, Switzerland, to return home from a tour of Eastern Europe and deal with the economic situation.

He was due to travel to Davos for the World Economic Forum Jan. 22 - 25 after visiting Russia, Belarus, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan but Zimbabwe will now be represented at the forum by finance minister Mthuli Ncube.
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Top news items in major Zimbabwean media outlets

HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- The following are the news highlights in Zimbabwe’s major media outlets on Monday.

• Security forces are "firmly on the ground" to ensure Zimbabweans go about their normal business undisturbed following threats of another round of violent protests by MDC-Alliance and its affiliates, the Zimbabwe government has said. (The Herald)

• The Zimbabwe government has mobilized more than 140 buses that will carry passengers for 1 U.S. dollars per trip in and around Harare starting today as part of long-term interventions to modernize the mass public transport system in Zimbabwe. (The Herald)

• The Zimbabwe government will find ways to assist businesses restock following widespread looting and destruction of shops during last week’s MDC-Alliance-instigated violent protests, Industry and Commerce Minister Nqobizitha Mangaliso Ndlovu has said. (The Herald)

• Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa has cancelled his planned trip to the World Economic Forum (WEF)’s annual conference in Davos, Switzerland, following advice from his inner circle, who warned that foreign media were plotting to doorstep and embarrass him over government’s brutal crackdown on protesters back home. (Newsday)
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SEE ALSO:

Zimbabwe President cancels Davos to deal with Harare dissent

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FURTHER READING:

Opposition figure Tendai Biti claiming President Emmerson Mnangagwa
is personally to blame for alleged human rights abuse across Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa pledges probe into protests crackdown

 

             

 

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