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Zimbabwe Fuel Protests: Bulawayo Turns Into Ghost City

At Nkulumane Sekusile Shopping Centre, Most Looters Were Children & Women

By Divine Dube 

BULAWAYO: Although government authorities ordered civil servants and the generality of Zimbabweans to go back to work Thursday (today), the city remains largely quiet with no movement as the country’s crippling shut down reaches the fourth day.

What further exacerbates uncertainty over the shutdown is that the internet remains jammed and most citizens who rely on social media, especially WhatsApp, for news, do not have information about what must happen next.

Access to WhatsApp was temporarily restored yesterday between 5 pm and 6 pm but was immediately (re)shutdown until Thursday with internet access only limited to email and selected websites.

Ironically, the country’s leader, President Mnangagwa, who is currently outside the country, yesterday used blocked Twitter to beg calm from protesting Zimbabweans. The State press also used it’s web pages to post latest communication from government authorities. But citizens remain(ed) with no access to most online news distribution channels.

In contrast to Monday and Tuesday protests which saw marauding youths blocking all main roads and looting shops, especially in high density surbubs of Nkulumane, Pumula, Luveve, Sizinda and Lobengula, Wednesday was largely a “dead” day with Thursday likely to be the same.

Although there has been no death reported so far in the city, most shops were between Monday and Tuesday broken down and heavily looted, with Choppies retail supermarkets recording the major loss.

On Tuesday, thousands of protesters from different neighbourhoods failed to break into Nkulumane Complex which houses Choppies supermarket, several retail shops and a government-run bank, the People’s Own Savings Bank (POSB) as riot police received a heavy back-up from the military following hours of running battles with daring protesters.

On Wednesday (yesterday), the area around Nkulumane Complex had been rendered a no-go-zone with a heavy presence of armed soldiers. But protesters were seen hanging around from morning, ready to pounce, until they gave up later during the day.

Bulawayo’s eastern neighbourhoods, according to reports, remained quiet and violence-free as from Monday, with most residents preferring a stay-away in their houses. – The Citizen Bulletin

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