Timeline: From burning cars to police crackdown, Zimbabwe remains on edge

17 January 2019 - 12:45
By Cebelihle Bhengu
Zimbabweans have been protesting massive fuel price increases.
Image: KB MPOFU Zimbabweans have been protesting massive fuel price increases.

Zimbabwe continues to dominate global headlines as reports of violent police crackdowns filter through, internet connectivity remains sketchy and citizens are arrested for public violence – scenes that many have compared to the Robert Mugabe regime.

In less than a week, #ShutDownZimbabwe and #ZimonFire have dominated social media, with shocking images and stories about the chaos that has occurred since Sunday, January 13.

This is how Zimbabwe entered 2019.

January 13: The fuel price increase

Zimbabwean president Emmerson Mnangagwa announced that fuel prices would more than double. Justifying the exorbitant prices, Mnangagwa said this would help stimulate Zimbabwe's economy. 

After the announcement was made, a three-day protest was called by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions.

January 14: Zimbabwe shuts down

On day one of the stay-away, the streets of Bulawayo and Harare were bloody. Scores of people were injured, sprayed with teargas, assaulted and shot.

More than five people, including a police officer, have been killed, while 26 were wounded by Zimbabwean security services. Streets were blocked and many commuters were left stranded as a result of a public transport strike. 

January 15: Blackout

Well-known activist Evan Mawarire said that his Twitter account had been blocked and the only way he could access it was through a VPN, or Virtual Private Network, which allows you to create a secure connection to another network over the internet.

Soon after, Zimbabweans accused the government of disrupting internet supply. Government officials denied this.

Despite the limited connectivity, news still filtered through that schools, banks and businesses remained shut.

January 16: Calls for calm

President Mnangagwa was in Russia while his country was burning. Eventually he released a statement to call for calm. He said the protests were "not the Zimbabwean way."

What next?

Reports from ordinary Zimbabweans on the ground continue to paint a devastating picture. Reuters reported that opposition lawmaker and activist Joanna Mamombe was in hiding as she "feared for her life." It's been alleged that her father was assaulted by soldiers and he has since been admitted to hospital.

Although the stay-away has officially ended, many businesses, schools and government buildings remain closed. On social media, there have been calls for those in Zimbabwe to continue sharing their stories, ensuring that the world knows what is going on.

Many roads remain blocked and it has been reported that some stores have run out of food supplies.