Posted by MacDonald Dzirutwe | 20 January 2019 | 819 times
Hundreds of Zimbabweans arrested during anti-government protests were detained on Friday on public order charges, as the United Nations urged an end to a brutal security crackdown and an internet blackout.
The government has said three people died during the unrest that broke out on Monday after President Emmerson Mnangagwa raised fuel prices by 150 percent. Lawyers and activists say the toll was much higher and that security forces used violence and carried out mass arrests to quell the unrest.
Among the around 400 people charged by magistrates on Friday was pastor Evan Mawarire, a rights activist who rose to prominence as a critic of Robert Mugabe’s rule and led a national protest in 2016.
He will stand trial on more serious charges of subverting the government after encouraging Zimbabweans via social media to heed a strike call from unions. His lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa said she would lodge a High Court appeal for him to be released on bail. Mawarire faces up to 20 years in jail if convicted.
The internet was blacked out for much of the day, until authorities began gradually lifting a ban that had disabled some electronic communications in the country since Tuesday.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres appealed for restraint by the Zimbabwe authorities.
“We are worried with the deterioration of the situation caused by the potential use of excessive violence in confronting the demonstrations in Zimbabwe,” Guterres told a news conference in New York on Friday.
Authorities have yet to respond to the allegations of a crackdown, but many Zimbabweans believe Mnangagwa - a former Mugabe ally - is falling back on his predecessor’s tactics by using intimidation to crush dissent.
The president has also failed to make good on pre-election pledges to kick-start the ailing economy - beset by high inflation and a currency shortage, and the trigger for this week’s protests.
Referring to allegations of night-time door-to-door searches against demonstrators and beatings by police, U.N. human rights spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani said hospital medics had treated more than 60 people for gunshot wounds.
“This is not way to react to the expression of economic grievances by the population,” she said. (Reuters)
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