HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) – The U.S. Embassy in Zimbabwe says it is “alarmed” by credible reports that security forces are targeting and beating activists and labor leaders. A local doctors’ rights group says it has treated 68 gunshot cases.
The U.S. statement on Thursday also urges Zimbabwe’s government to restore access to social media as the country faces its worst unrest since deadly post-election violence in August. Zimbabweans this week heeded a nationwide stay-at-home call after the government dramatically increased fuel prices in the economically shattered country.
Prominent pastor and activist Evan Mawarire is currently in court in the capital, Harare, accused of inciting violence. Zimbabwe’s state security minister has said more than 600 people have been arrested.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa while traveling overseas has denounced what he called “wanton violence and cynical destruction.”
Sixty-eight Zimbabweans have been treated for gunshot wounds, 17 of whom underwent emergency surgery, after violent protests this week triggered by a steep rise in fuel prices, a doctors’ group said on Thursday.
The Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR) said its members had treated 172 people, some with dog bites, in private and public hospitals since Monday, when the protests erupted in the capital, Harare, and the second city, Bulawayo.
“There are cases of patients who had chest trauma and fractured limbs who were forcibly taken from hospital to attend court despite the advise of doctors,” ZAHDR said in a statement.
The protests pose a major challenge for President Emmerson Mnangagwa who promised to repair the creaking economy after he replaced long-time leader Robert Mugabe ousted in a November 2017 coup. [nL8N1ZF3N2]
Scores of civilians, including a prominent activist and an opposition legislator, have been detained and are expected to appear in court on Thursday to face public violence charges. [nL8N1ZG1OZ]
Others were beaten, lawyers and witnesses said, pointing to a heavy crackdown on dissent by security forces.
Zimbabweans had hoped Mnangagwa would make good on pre-election pledges to revive the economy and break with the Mugabe era, but Zimbabwe has fallen back into familiar ways.
Dollar shortages are battering the economy, rocketing inflation is destroying the value of citizens’ savings and the government is reacting forcefully to crush dissent.