Harare shuttered as Zimbabweans join stay-at-home protest

Several people were killed and some 200 arrested during Monday’s protests in the Zimbabwean capital Harare. (AFP)
Updated 15 January 2019
0

Harare shuttered as Zimbabweans join stay-at-home protest

  • Several people were killed and some 200 arrested during Monday’s protests
  • The government has blamed the opposition and rights groups for the violence

HARARE: Streets were mostly quiet on Tuesday in Zimbabwe’s capital Harare and second city Bulawayo as banks, schools and businesses stayed shut, a day after deadly protests over economic hardship and a sharp increase in the price of fuel.
The closures followed a call by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions for a three-day stay-at-home protest over the sharp drop in living standards caused by a dollar crunch that has sent prices soaring and caused shortages of fuel and drugs.
Several people were killed and some 200 arrested during Monday’s protests, which followed President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s decision to hike the price of fuel in an attempt to tackle the southern African country’s worst economic crisis in a decade.
A human rights lawyers group said it had received reports of soldiers and police officers breaking into homes in Harare townships overnight and assaulting suspected demonstrators.
“Even if I wanted to go to work, where do I get the $8 to go to and from work? It is better to tend to my field,” said Malvin Chigora, a 36-year-old father of two, on his small maize field in Kuwadzana township on the outskirts of the capital.
In central Harare, banks, shops and offices were closed with few people on the streets. Most public taxis were off the road. Two local journalists told Reuters the situation was similar in Bulawayo.
The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZHLR), which provides free legal services, said it had received distress calls from residents in Mabvuku and Chitungwiza who were forcibly taken from their homes and made to remove barricades from roads.
That tactic was used by security agents during the rule of long-time leader Robert Mugabe, who was ousted by his one-time ally Mnangagwa in a bloodless coup in November.
“Of concern is the involvement of soldiers in these illegal acts who are actively participating in the cruel and inhuman treatment of residents,” ZLHR said in a statement.
Six people were killed in post-election violence in August after the army intervened.
Zimbabwe Defense Forces spokesman Overson Mugwisi and police spokeswoman Charity Charamba said they did not have sufficient information to comment.
The government has blamed the opposition and rights groups for Monday’s violence.
On Tuesday, the Ministry of Information said it was looking for a man who was seen on videos posted on social media brandishing an assault rifle in Harare and giving orders to motorists.
“Where did he obtain the assault weapon ... He is suspected of shooting some innocent civilians,” the ministry said.


Japan PM Abe: No comment on Trump nomination for Nobel Peace Prize

Updated 5 min 24 sec ago
0

Japan PM Abe: No comment on Trump nomination for Nobel Peace Prize

  • ‘In light of the Nobel committee’s policy of not disclosing recommenders and nominees for 50 years, I decline to comment’
  • The US is Japan’s ally and anchor for national defense and Abe has assiduously cultivated cordial ties with Trump
TOKYO: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declined Monday to say if he had nominated US President Donald Trump for the Nobel Peace Prize, though he also emphasized he did not deny doing so.
Trump’s assertion Friday that Abe had nominated him for the honor and sent him a copy of the letter has raised criticism in Japan.
Questioned in parliament about Trump’s claim that he had done so, Abe said, “In light of the Nobel committee’s policy of not disclosing recommenders and nominees for 50 years, I decline to comment.”
Neither the prime minister nor his spokesman denied Trump’s comment.
“I never said I didn’t” nominate him, Abe said in response to a follow-up question by Yuichiro Tamaki, a lawmaker for the opposition Democratic Party for the People.
Tamaki said in a tweet Monday that given the lack of progress on various issues with North Korea that he was concerned such a nomination would “send the wrong message to North Korea and the rest of international society.”
In responding to Tamaki’s questions in parliament, Abe praised Trump, saying he “has been decisively responding toward resolving North Korea’s nuclear and missile problems, and last year he held historic US-North Korea summit talks.”
Abe added that Trump had also passed on to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un Japan’s own concerns about past abductions of Japanese citizens by the North, saying “he and the entire White House also actively cooperated in resolving the issue.”
“I highly praise President Trump’s leadership,” Abe said.
Trump’s claim that Abe had sent him a “beautiful copy” of a letter sent to the Nobel committee could not be immediately verified.
The government’s top spokesman, Yoshihide Suga, echoed Abe’s remarks in refusing further comment.
The situation is awkward for Abe at a time when his government is under fire for allegedly manipulating data on wage increases to suggest his economic policies were yielding better results than was actually the case.
“Being Trump’s closest friend among world leaders has not worked out too well for Abe,” said Jeff Kingston, director of Asian Studies at Temple University Japan. “He’s not making Abe look very good.”
The Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun reported Sunday, citing unidentified government sources, that Abe had nominated Trump at the US president’s request.
Former US President Barack Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009, his first year in office, for laying out a US commitment to “seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.”
Trump complained Friday that Obama was there “for about 15 seconds” before he was awarded the prize.
The deadline each year for nominations is midnight, Jan. 31. According to the website of the Nobel committee, there are 304 candidates for the Nobel Peace Prize for 2019. It said 219 are individuals and 85 are organizations.
Trump’s landmark June 2018 summit with Kim in Singapore was replete with pomp but thin on substance. The president’s comments Friday drew speculation that South Korean President Moon Jae-in might have been the one who nominated the president.
Kim Eui-kyeom, Moon’s spokesman, said he had not, and that he was unlikely to do so.
But Kim said Moon believed Trump “has sufficient qualifications to win the Nobel Peace Prize” for his work toward peace between North and South Korea, which have yet to sign a peace treaty after their 1950-53 war.
The US is Japan’s ally and anchor for national defense and Abe has assiduously cultivated cordial ties with Trump. He was the first foreign leader to meet with Trump after he won the 2016 presidential election.
North Korea has refrained from nuclear and missile tests since early last year. That’s a welcome development for Japan, which sits well within the range of its missiles and has sometimes had test rockets land in its territorial waters.
Abe personally has a large political stake in making progress in resolving the abduction issue with North Korea, an important one for his nationalist political base.
The Nobel committee chooses the recipient of the prize in early October by a majority vote. The prize is awarded on Dec. 10, in Oslo, Norway.