Zimbabwe hikes fuel price by over 100% sparking protests

Commuters have been stranded in Zimbabwe’s two main cities as angry protesters reacted to a more than doubling by blocking buses from carrying passengers, reports AFP news agency.

“Angry people are preventing commuter buses from carrying passengers. People are just stranded,” Nhamo Tembo told AFP. He was trying to travel from Epworth, a poor suburb, east of the capital Harare.

Boulders blocked roads leading to Harare city centre this morning.

In Bulawayo, demonstrators attacked minibuses heading to the city centre and used burning tyres and stones to block the main routes into town while some schools were turning away pupils fearing for their safety.

“We want [President Emmerson] Mnangagwa to know our displeasure in his failure,” protester Mthandazo Moyo told AFP. 

“[Ex-President] Mugabe was evil but he listened,” he added.

On Saturday, President Mnangagwa in a press conference said the increase in the state-controlled price of fuel should ease the shortages that have gripped the country in recent weeks. The president left Zimbabwe on Sunday on a trip that will end with his attendance at the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland, angering critics who say he should stay at home to deal with the crisis.

Petrol prices rose from $1.24 a litre (£1.11) to $3.31 starting Sunday.

The gas shortages highlight that this southern African country is battling its worst economic crisis in a decade due to a severe shortage of foreign currency.

The lack of fuel means that police walk for kilometers (miles) with handcuffed suspects because their vehicles are grounded. Ambulances, school buses, public transport vehicles and garbage trucks spend days waiting in line for diesel and petrol.

Some motorists camp out at fuel stations where pumps are dry for days. Others simply park their vehicles at the nearest gas station in hopes of being in a prime spot when fuel eventually becomes available.

In a stark contrast that is also stoking public anger, a video on social media shows a long line of cars waiting for gasoline along a roadside as what appears to be Mnangagwa’s presidential convoy, escorted by motorcyles, zips past the desperate motorists.

No one seems spared. At another service station, an army truck drove straight to the front of a long line, drawing murmurs of discontent from waiting motorists.

At gas stations where petrol and diesel become available, the riot police keep order, but they get perks: police trucks got to refuel ahead of other motorists. In normal times, security agencies refuel from their own pumps at the bases.

The fuel shortage stems from a debilitating currency crisis, say analysts.

Announcing the increase, Mnangagwa said the government “will not allow businesses to trigger a new round of price increases.” He attributed the shortages to “the growing economy and rampant illegal currency fuel trading activities.”

Mnangagwa claimed “certain elements” wanted to use the fuel shortages to cause unrest. Mnangagwa’s attempts to control the economy, rather than allow market forces to determine prices, is one of the causes of Zimbabwe’s economic woes, say economists.

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