Police forces reportedly fired tear gas to disperse people queuing for bread at a shopping center in the capital Harare on Wednesday, January 16, amid the third consecutive day of nationwide strike and protests to denounce fuel price hikes.
Businesses, banks, and schools remain closed as of Wednesday, and public transport vehicles are reportedly grounded in most part of the country. The Harare International Airport (HRE) and the Victoria Falls Airport (VFA) remain, however, open for business. Nevertheless, Fast Jet, one of the main domestic airline operators, announced it had cancelled all its domestic and regional flights until at least January 22. Furthermore, the national largest telecoms company confirmed it has been forced to shut down internet services until further notice. Continued telecommunication disruptions are possible in the coming days.
Further protests are likely to take place in Harare and other major urban centers in the coming hours. A heightened security presence, along with associated business and traffic disruptions, is likely in major cities at least through Wednesday. Clashes between protesters and security forces cannot be ruled out.
Most western governments have advised their nationals present in the country to shelter in place and avoid any movements within the next 24 hours. Furthermore, French authorities have advised their nationals to postpone any travel to Zimbabwe until the situations fully stabilizes.
Violent anti-government demonstrations erupted in Harare, Bulawayo, Mutare, and other cities on January 14-15, amid a three-day general strike called by labor unions and civil society groups. At least three people were killed, several others wounded, and over 200 people were arrested by security forces.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa told reporters in Moscow on January 15, that his administration would not back down from the fuel price hikes, prompting concerns over the potential for further protests beyond the general strike, which is set to end on January 16. Mnangagwa is currently on a multi-state visit to Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Azerbaijan, and Switzerland.
On January 13, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, the country's largest trade union confederation, called for a nationwide strike to be held starting on January 14 to protest a planned increase in fuel prices. On January 12, President Mnangagwa announced on national television that gasoline and diesel fuel prices could increase by more than 100 percent in the coming weeks to tackle decreasing fuel supplies.
Nationwide fuel shortages have been ongoing over the past month due to importers' inability to secure foreign currency amid a long-running currency crisis. The country has been experiencing a deteriorating economic situation for more than a year, due in part to a lack of liquidity.
Individuals present in Zimbabwe are advised to fill up vehicle tanks whenever gasoline is available, ensure a sufficient level of fuel reserves before embarking on long journeys, and postpone nonessential travel until the situation stabilizes. It is also advisable to be vigilant at gas stations, where confrontations between drivers are possible. Furthermore, individuals are advised to closely monitor developments to the situation and avoid any associated protests due to the risk of violence. Those planning travel to the country are advised to bring a sufficient reserve of US dollars.
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