Zimbabwe police ask for travel documents at a road block in Harare July 31 2020. Picture: AFP/ JEKESAI NJIKIZANA
Zimbabwe police ask for travel documents at a road block in Harare July 31 2020. Picture: AFP/ JEKESAI NJIKIZANA

Harare/Johannesburg — Businesses in Zimbabwe’s capital were closed and the streets deserted on Friday, the day opposition and civil-society groups had called for mass protests against state corruption.

There was sparse traffic on all major roads leading into Harare, with heavily armed soldiers and police manning roadblocks. While banks were shut, major retailers, including OK Zimbabwe and Pick n Pay stores, were open, with security forces monitoring shoppers.

Previous protests, including those in January 2019, turned violent with retail outlets looted by protesters.

The authorities issued a warning to citizens against participating in the demonstrations.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa labeled the protest plans an “insurrection” meant to overthrow his administration, which is presiding over inflation of 737%, food and fuel shortages and a collapsing local currency that’s led to demands by teachers, bankers and healthcare workers to be paid in US dollars.

“The situation is under control and we are happy that we haven’t received reports of any incidents,” police spokesperson Paul Nyathi said by phone.

There were arrests of some protesters, including that of novelist Tsitsi Dangarembga.

The authorities have said lockdown regulations to curb the spread of the coronavirus prohibit mass gatherings.

The country has 3,092 cases and 53 deaths from the Covid-19 as of July 30, according to the health ministry.

Bloomberg

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