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Zimbabwe: Scores of people treated for gunshot wounds after protests

Phill Magakoe, AFP | Protesters sing during a demonstration of Zimbabwean citizens outside the Zimbabwean Embassy in Pretoria on January 16, 2019, following the announcement of a petrol price hike and the shut down of mobile phone and internet networks.

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.

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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.

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.

Others were beaten, lawyers and witnesses said, pointing to a heavy crackdown on dissent by security forces.

After two days of protests against fuel price hikes, residents said soldiers and police were patrolling Harare townships and assaulting some people in their homes, a tactic used by Robert Mugabe’s security services during his almost four decades of increasingly repressive rule.

Steep fuel hikes

Some internet services that were cut on Tuesday were partially restored on Wednesday, the final day of a three-day stay-at-home strike against steep fuel price hikes. But social media platforms like WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter remained blocked because of a government order.

A legal and media group earlier went to court to have the shutdown reversed.

Joana Mamombe, an opposition lawmaker, said she was in hiding after soldiers sought her out at her parents’ home on Tuesday and beat up her father, leaving him hospitalised and unable to sit.

“I am very scared for my life. This is a crackdown on those of us who oppose this government. They want to silence opposition voices,” she told Reuters by telephone.

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.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)

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