Emmerson Mnangagwa. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES
Emmerson Mnangagwa. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES

Zimbabwean president Emmerson Mnangagwa has dismissed rumours that a coup is being planned after a week of violent protests against massive fuel-price increases.

“The president is aware of whispers of a ‘palace coup’ brewing amidst the current turmoil persisting in the country,” Mnangagwa’s spokesperson George Charamba said on Twitter on Monday.

“We as an elected administration tend not to acknowledge trivia. It is prudent of the administration to clear the air.”

Mnangagwa is expected to return to Zimbabwe after visiting Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan in an effort to drum up investment for his economically crippled nation.

Demonstrations erupted on January 14 when the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions called a three-day strike to protest a 150% hike in the price of diesel and petrol.

Zimbabwe was plunged into violent and angry protests in January 2019 after president Emmerson Mnangagwa announced steep fuel price increases, making Zimbabwe the country with the most expensive fuel in the world, according to GlobalPetrolPrices.com.

At least 12 people were killed during the protests.

Mnangagwa, who was accompanied by Charamba, cancelled a scheduled trip to a World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland, saying it was necessary to “restore calm” in Zimbabwe.

Meanwhile lawyers and a media-advocacy group on Monday asked the high court to declare the shutdown of the internet illegal after the government blocked access to most social-media services last week.

The shutdown has caused loss of business and income and threats to life, according to the urgent application filed on Monday by the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights and the Zimbabwe unit of the Media Institute of Southern Africa.

The legal action is directed at the three mobile networks operating in the country, including Econet Wireless Zimbabwe, President Emmerson Mnangagwa, the national security minister and the head of the intelligence services.

The country’s biggest mobile-phone operator Econet said last week that Facebook, WhatsApp, Youtube and Twitter had been blocked on government instructions. At least 12 people were killed during a police crackdown meant to end nationwide protests against a 150% hike in the price of diesel and gasoline.

A spokesperson at Econet’s Johannesburg office said on January 18 that the company could not respond to criticism in Zimbabwe or on social media.