Over 100 arrested during Zim national shutdown

Seventy-five of those arrested were from Bulawayo, where clashes with riot police were reported.

A Zimbabwean policeman arrests protesters during a demonstration on 6 July 2016, in Bulawayo. Picture: AFP.

HARARE - More than 100 people were arrested in Zimbabwe during a national shutdown on Wednesday.

Seventy-five of those arrested were from Bulawayo, where clashes with riot police were reported.

State TV and radio said 19 people were arrested in the capital, Harare, and 17 in the resort town of Victoria Falls.

Police spokesperson Charity Charamba is now referring to the shutdown as planned civil unrest.

It was widely followed in most towns and cities.

Pastor Evan Mawarire of the #ThisFlag movement said in a video last night that the government should prosecute corrupt ministers, remove police roadblocks and reverse an import ban on basic goods.

He said if the demands were not met, activists would call for another stayaway on Wednesday and Thursday next week.

The southern African nation has been gripped by a devastating drought, which has compounded economic hardships, which includes high joblessness and an acute cash shortage that have angered its citizens.

The #ThisFlag movement was started in April to protest against the government "for allowing corruption, injustice and poverty".

The campaign has attracted thousands of followers who have been speaking out against government excesses. Wednesday's protest was organised via Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp.

"We have got to a point now where everyone is saying enough is enough. The response has been outstanding...This is what we all needed, something that we can all do together," Mawarire told Reuters TV when asked about the success of the protest.

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President Robert Mugabe, who has been in power since Zimbabwe's independence from Britain in 1980, was on Wednesday attending a scheduled meeting of his Zanu-PF's politburo, the party's top executive organ. Party spokesperson, Simon Khaya-Moyo, declined to say whether Zanu-PF would discuss the recent protests.

In the volatile township of Mufakose, to the west of Harare, hundreds of youths barricaded roads to stop people going to work, Reuters witnesses said.

A national police spokesperson said that there was no need to seek military help and that police had arrested more than 40 people across Zimbabwe, including an Australian tourist in the resort town of Victoria, for blocking roads and unlawful protests.

"The military is not there because in our assessment, for now, the situation has not deteriorated (enough) to warrant the presence of the military," Charity Charamba told reporters.

Local units of Barclays and Standard Chartered shut their branches in central Harare while clothing retailers, Edgars Stores and Truworths, also halted trade.

Siyaso, one of the biggest and oldest informal markets in Mbare township near central Harare, was also shut down and there were few vehicles on the roads of the capital.

Government departments were open while supermarkets like Pick n' Pay, OK Zimbabwe and Choppies reported little business.

"As you can see there are very few customers here. It is not usual for a Wednesday to have these small volumes," a supervisor at an OK Zimbabwe store in the central business district said.

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