NAIROBI, Kenya ––Reports from Zimbabwe say several people have been killed during protests after the government doubled the price of fuel overnight.
Eye witnesses say more people were arrested as protestors took to the streets in the cities of Harare and Bulawayo.
The demonstrators burned tires and used them to barricade roads and block bus routes and other motorways.
A spokesman for the presidency said President Emmerson Mnangagwa understand that the fuel price increase is aimed at addressing shortage problems caused by an increase in fuel use and “rampant” illegal trading.
Since taking over from long-time leader Robert Mugabe, the new Zimbabwe’s government is trying to revive the country’s struggling economy.
Unemployment is high, inflation is running high while wages have stagnated at all levels.
Meanwhile, the country’s Security Minister Owen Ncube established that there had been deaths but did not give any specific figures.
The security minister blamed opposition figures and political groups for the violence, adding that an investigation was under way.
Economists say the southern African nation faces a severe shortage of US dollar cash and confidence in its bond notes.
Zimbabwean major businesses and companies are also not producing enough to satisfy local demand or to earn foreign currency by exporting goods. The country, instead, is importing more than it is exporting and struggling to pay.
Currently in Harare, most businesses are closed following calls by trade unions and opposition groups for a three-day strike over the fuel price hike.
The government has deployed riot police in the capital and in the southern city of Bulawayo.
In an official televised address on the weekend, President Mnangagwa said the fuel price increase would tackle the ongoing fuel problems.
The President said the government would crackdown on “elements bent on taking advantage of the current fuel shortages to cause and sponsor unrest and instability in the country”.
The country’s main labor organization, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), accused the government of a lack of empathy for the poor.