Violent protests in Zimbabwe claimed lives on Monday as soldiers were deployed after the embattled government more than doubled fuel prices, sparking widespread anger.
Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa skipped the carnage by travelling to Moscow as protests erupted across his country on Monday (Jan 14), leaving 24 people injured and five possibly dead. In the city of Bulawayo, demonstrators attacked minibuses heading to the city centre and used burning tyres and stones to block the main routes into town.
Several people were killed and some 200 arrested during Monday's protests, which followed President Emmerson Mnangagwa's decision to hike the price of fuel in an attempt to tackle the southern African country's worst economic crisis in a decade.
"But we have designated service stations for our diplomats and so on who want to pay in U.S. dollars and it will cost them $1.32 in United States dollars", Mnangagwa said.
He said the fuel price hike was necessary because local fuel was the cheapest in the region.
"Yes, at the moment we don't have much economic muscle to buy the things which we would want to buy from the Russian Federation, but down the line, as Zimbabwe becomes stronger in terms of its economic muscle, we should be able to buy the type of hardware, which we know the Russian Federation has and is the state-of-the-art type of equipment that they have, but we are not in a hurry", Mnangagwa said.
"It's tense since early morning", Nhamo Tembo, an Epworth resident said.
Zimbabwe's government is trying to resuscitate the country's struggling economy.
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A litre of petrol is now $3,31, up from $1,38 while diesel is now selling for $3,11 per litre up from $1,32 previously set by the regulator, Mnangagwa told reporters at State House on Saturday. The gasoline price compares with a global average of $1.08 (R15) a liter with Hong Kong, at $2.04 (R28.39 c), being the highest, according to GlobalPetrolPrices.com.
He warned that government would "respond appropriately" against "all those who have been conspiring to subvert peace, law and order in the country".
He accused unnamed opposition parties of disguising themselves as civic groups and of sponsoring civil unrest.
Nelson Chamisa, the leader of the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change said: "We have a national crisis which is descending into a humanitarian crisis".
Government doctors went on a 40-day strike in early December, demanding salaries in USA dollars and improved working conditions, while teachers' unions called a strike this week for better pay but their calls went largely unheeded. "Considering that the strike call was made on a weekend, this has been a success".
"Details on the exact form the rebate system will take will be announced in due course... and given these cost mitigations and incentives, the government does not expect, and will not allow, businesses to trigger a new round of price increases".
Mnangagwa, who has pledged to revive the moribund economy, blamed the shortfall on increased fuel usage "compounded by rampant illegal currency and fuel trading activities".