HARARE – At least 172 people have been treated, 68 for gunshot wounds, after they sustained injuries during protests over a fuel price hike and worsening economic conditions in Zimbabwe, a humanitarian NGO confirmed on Thursday.
The Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights said 17 people had undergone surgeries after suffering critical wounds.
“The remainder of the cases ranged from assaults with sharp objects, booted feet, baton sticks, sjamboks and tarmac abrasions,” ZADHR said in a statement.
Mass protests broke out Monday after the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions called for a three-day strike, in response to President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s decision to double fuel prices.
Following the three-day strike Thursday, Zimbabweans flocked to shops to buy supplies in case the conflict worsened.
“We have been very busy since we opened,” said a butcher in Mount Pleasant, a residential suburb in the capital, Harare.
Tuesday, Mnangagwa imposed a country-wide 30-hour internet blackout in an attempt to weaken participation in the strike organized by social media activists.
The blackout prevented human rights groups from warning of the police actions carried out in neighborhoods of Harare and so the details of the number of deaths and injuries had not circulated.
“As a result of the crackdown at least eight people have reportedly been killed by the security forces and 200 arbitrarily detained,” Amnesty International said Tuesday.
According to local press, 600 people have been arrested, 214 of whom have already appeared in court.
Mnangagwa – who is currently out of the country on a foreign trip and is scheduled to attend the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland – called for calm on Twitter.
“I call for calm and peace from all of our brothers and sisters. We are one nation, with one mission, and we will realize it together,” the president said Wednesday.
Mnangagwa’s government increased the price of gasoline Saturday to $3.31 for a liter from $1.38 and hiked diesel from $1.45 to $3.11, which could be paid in promissory notes issued by the authorities due to the shortage of United States dollars, which are commonly-used in the country.
Some economists argue that the price hikes make sense, although the increase may cause other commodities’ expenses to spike. Meanwhile, the country’s main trade unions contend that the government’s price hikes are a harsh blow for workers and the average Zimbabwean.