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Zimbabwe government orders another Internet services shutdown

HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- The Zimbabwean government has ordered another complete shutdown of Internet services from Thursday night to disrupt communication among protesters demonstrating against fuel price hikes and rising living costs.

The country’s biggest mobile network operator Econet told subscribers early Friday morning that the government had issued another order which it had to comply with.

"The earlier directives are already the subject of a pending High Court application.

"We sincerely apologize for all inconvenience caused by the acts of government which are beyond our reasonable control," the operator said.

This follows an earlier blackout of more than 24 hours between Tuesday and Wednesday.

Social media platforms including WhatsApp, Twitter and Facebook remained shut after the government believed that protesters were exchanging information to carry on with their activities.

However, Internet users could still communicate on WhatsApp and another platform called Telegram after installing VPNs on their smartphones.

This may have prompted the government to order the second Internet blackout.


Most shops remain closed in Harare City as
Zimbabwe public protests rising fuel prices

HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- Harare’s city center remained largely quiet Thursday as many workers stayed at home and many businesses remained closed.

This followed the violence that erupted in the Zimbabwean capital and other parts of the country Monday and Tuesday as Zimbabweans protested against rising fuel prices and cost of living.

Most retail shops, which closed on Monday as violence flared, opted to remain closed as owners assessed the situation following the destruction of property and looting which characterized the two days of protests.

At least three people, including a policeman, died during the disturbances.

Both vehicular and human traffic remained thin on Thursday with a few fruit vendors and illegal money changers milling around their stations while some motorists queued up for fuel at filling stations.

Although internet services were restored late Wednesday after a more than 24-hour blackout, the government directed to keep social media services blocked.

A notice from the country’s biggest mobile network, Econet, said the services would remain blocked till further notice.

"Please be advised that the internet is back online under a directive that Facebook, YouTube , WhatsApp, Twitter will remain closed until further notice.

"Any inconvenience is sincerely regretted," the mobile network operator said in a message to subscribers.

Meanwhile, President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Wednesday urged quiet, saying that he understood the frustration and pain many Zimbabweans were going through as his administration put in place the fundamentals needed to transform the economy.

In a post on Facebook, Mnangagwa said violence would not reform the economy and that there was no justification for any against the people and property.

He said he understood the pain and frustration that many Zimbabweans were feeling, but resolving Zimbabwe’s economic challenges was a monumental task and the government was moving in that direction.

"Wanton violence and cynical destruction is not the Zimbabwean way.

"My thoughts and prayers are with all those affected.

"As I have said numerous times, everyone in Zimbabwe has the right to express themselves freely to speak out, to criticize and to protest," he said.

Six hundred people have been arrested following Monday’s acts of hooliganism and looting and the government is urging all workers to return to work tomorrow as the situation has now normalized.

Minister of State Security Owen Ncube said Wednesday evening that 600 people have been arrested following Monday’s acts of "hooliganism and looting."

"Security forces have so far arrested 600 people in connection with these riotous acts, 214 of which have already appeared in court.

"Our security agents are on the ground monitoring the situation to ensure that those who want to engage in their normal business do so without hindrance.

"We are also appealing to all service providers to render their services to the people of Zimbabwe and in the same vein urge transport operators to resume carrying passengers, schools to open and generally for the public to engage in their various activities freely," the minister said in a television speech.

Ncube also condemned the violence and blamed the MDC Alliance and some NGOs for the disturbances.

"Government therefore places full responsibility for compensation for victims of the violence, destruction of property, injury and loss of life to the MDC Alliance and all its associates."

Zimbabwe government meets public transport operators over fares

HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- The Zimbabwean government on Thursday met public transport operators to agree on a viable fare charging model.

Public transport operators have in recent days hiked fares by more than 100 percent in response to the increase in prices of fuel.

The high fares have seen many people failing to travel to work and are part of the reason why Zimbabweans embarked on a three-day nationwide stayaway from Jan. 14-16.

The deputy minister of transport Fortune Chasi told media that the meeting was aimed at hearing the concerns of the operators as well as agree on viable fares.

He said the operators indicated that while they were willing to continue operations, they were also concerned about the safety of their buses following damage to their assets by hooligans during demonstrations this week.

The transporters also raised concern on limited fuel supplies which is hindering efforts to normalize transportation of the public within the urban and long distance routes.

Chasi said the government will take into account the concerns raised by the transport operators and in the immediacy, an agreement was reached over a fare charging model which is, however, subject to regulatory approval.

"The government has, however, come up with a policy that will take into account the needs of the travelling public to facilitate continued operations in the future," said Chasi.

The government also assured transport operators of a mechanism that will guarantee or facilitate viability of their operations in light of the need to minimize costs of production.

Belarus eyes strategic cooperation with Zimbabwe
confirms President Alexander Lukashenko

MINSK Belarus (Xinhua) -- Belarus seeks to gradually establish a strategic level of cooperation with Zimbabwe and sees significant potential in the development of bilateral ties, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said Thursday.

Zimbabwe is an important partner of Belarus in the Southern African region, and Belarus seeks to gradually reach the highest strategic level of cooperation with Zimbabwe, Lukashenko said while meeting his Zimbabwean counterpart Emmerson Mnangagwa.

The Belarusian leader expressed hope that Mnangagwa’s visit will give impetus to the development of bilateral relations.

He stressed that Belarus is ready to help Zimbabwe overcome domestic political and economic difficulties.

Lukashenko added that he will visit Zimbabwe with great pleasure, but before that it is necessary to agree upon and implement several joint projects.

Mnangagwa said Belarus and Zimbabwe have very close ties.

"My administration and the people of Zimbabwe consider Belarus as a brotherly country," he added.

Zimbabwe annual inflation hits new record high of 42 per cent

HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- Zimbabwe’s annual rate of inflation for December 2018 rose to a new high of 42.09 per cent, up from 31.01 per cent in November, according to the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (Zimstats).

The rise was spurred by increases in prices of basic goods, said the agency.

Monthly inflation slightly receded to 9.01 per cent from 9.2 per cent in November.

The continued rise in inflation is coming against the background of recent fuel price hikes by more than 100 percent in a move that is also expected to further add inflationary pressures in the economy.

South African finance minister backs new Zimbabwean currency

HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- South Africa’s Finance Minister Tito Mboweni said Wednesday that Zimbabwe is in a good position to adopt a new currency and South Africa would support its northern neighbor’s efforts towards economic revival.

"I think the idea of using a new currency in Zimbabwe is a good one," Mboweni was quoted as saying by African News Agency as he addressed journalists ahead of his trip to Davos, Switzerland, for the annual World Economic Forum (WEF).

Mboweni said the use of the U.S. dollar was untenable given that Zimbabwe was under sanctions, whose removal he said was central to the country’s economic recovery.

He revealed that South African National Treasury director-general and the Reserve Bank governor, had met with their Zimbabwean counterparts in December and had a conversation about the status of the Zimbabwean economy, the finance and banking systems, the attempts to reignite the economic health of Zimbabwe.

The two sides reaffirmed their mutual commitment to working together to assist Zimbabwe, Mboweni said.

Zimbabwean finance and economic development minister Mthuli Ncube said last week that the country will have its own currency within the next 12 months, as government is frantically working on raising enough foreign currency to anchor it.

Addressing delegates at a "Road to Davos" townhall meeting in Harare, Ncube said adopting the U.S. dollar or the South African rand would not solve the country’s macroeconomic problems.

"On the issue of raising enough foreign currency to introduce the new currency, we are on our way already, give us months, not years," he said.

Asked to give a timeline on when currency reforms would be implemented, Ncube said it would be done "in less than 12 months."


An uneasy calm in Harare following protests over fuel price hike



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