Zimbabwe Government Cracks Down After People Protest Gasoline Prices
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
Zimbabwe is currently the most expensive place in the world to fuel up a car. That is according to the website Global Petrol Prices. And it follows the government in Zimbabwe more than doubling the price of gasoline and diesel last week, which has made people in Zimbabwe mad. These past few days have seen protests in the capital, Harare, and the country's second-biggest city, Bulawayo. Government forces have now cracked down violently. Human rights groups say at least 12 people have died. Many more have been arrested. Well, joining us now is Tendai Marima. She is in Bulawayo. She's a local journalist there in Zimbabwe. Hi, Tendai.
TENDAI MARIMA: Hi, Mary Louise.
KELLY: Paint me a picture of just how chaotic things have gotten where you are and in Harare over these past few days.
MARIMA: Over the past few days, we've seen people rebelling and rejecting the president's announcement to raise the prices of fuel. So people have called for action and, you know, gotten in the streets burning tires, barricading the streets with metal objects, you know. And, you know, at some point, the protests also took a very violent turn where people started by first targeting shops that were associated with government businessmen or people who are linked to the government in one way or another. And those shops were looted and burned. And then it just basically spread into all the shops in certain areas.
KELLY: So you're describing protests - tires burning in the streets, shops being looted. In other parts of town, is normal business able to proceed? Are buses running? Are people getting around?
MARIMA: For the past week, there hasn't been any commuter transport going into town because the roads have been blockaded by protesters. Even public transporters cannot get into town. So what we've seen particularly in the past week is people walking six kilometers to get into town and then journey back home again because some people don't have the option to stay at home because of the tensions that are ongoing.
KELLY: And give me a sense of the crackdown. We mentioned 12 people dead but many hundreds arrested and jailed. Is that correct?
MARIMA: Yes, that's correct. Yesterday, I went to two large courthouses, which host about three courts each. And in all of those magistrates' courts, they were full to the brim with people that were accused of looting, people that were accused of destroying property, people that were accused of acts of violence. They've all just been bundled together. And among those people, there are young children who are minors below the age of 18. There are also some very elderly people who have also been, you know, swept up in these door-to-door raids that the police have done.
KELLY: I mean, the backdrop to all of this is Zimbabwe is a country in transition after decades of repressive rule under Robert Mugabe. There was a sense just last year I know when the ALL THINGS CONSIDERED team visited and was reporting from Zimbabwe last year that there was hope, that there was possibility, that there was going to be new openness. Does it still feel like that in Zimbabwe?
MARIMA: At the moment, it doesn't feel that way at all. When President Robert Mugabe was overthrown from power, there was a feeling of enthusiasm. There was, you know, great joy on the streets and people felt like Zimbabwe had turned a new chapter. But what we've seen in the last three months hasn't reflected that. And there's a huge feeling of disappointment and also a feeling of uncertainty as to how low the country could go before things actually turn around.
KELLY: Journalist Tendai Marima reporting there from Zimbabwe. Tendai, thank you.
MARIMA: All right. Thank you very much, Mary Louise. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.